\ ˈchēf \

Definition of chief

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : accorded highest rank or office chief librarian the company's chief executive
2 : of greatest importance or influence the chief reasons their chief accomplishment



Definition of chief (Entry 2 of 3)




Definition of chief (Entry 3 of 3)

1 : the upper part of a heraldic field
2 : the head of a body of persons or an organization : leader chief of police
3 : the principal or most valuable part would never rest till she had read the chief of the letter to him— Jane Austen
in chief
: in the chief position or place often used in titles commander in chief

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Other Words from chief


chiefdom \ ˈchēf-​dəm \ noun
chiefship \ ˈchēf-​ˌship \ noun

Examples of chief in a Sentence


the chief engineer on the project Her job is their chief source of income. He has many concerns, chief among them his health.


the chief of the estate was left to the eldest son our chief is out on a business trip right now
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Bailey stepped down as Burberry's chief creative officer in March 2018, and his inclusion on the New Year's Honors list commemorates his impactful time at the fashion house. Amy Mackelden, Harper's BAZAAR, "Christopher Bailey Is on the Queen’s New Year’s Honors List for His Work at Burberry," 30 Dec. 2018 According to the school district’s chief operating officer Raymond Votto Jr., Cranston schools have incurred $45,859 in unpaid lunch debt and had to write off more than $95,000 from September 1, 2016, to June 30, 2018. Nadra Nittle, Vox, "How states and crowdfunding are tackling the growing problem of student lunch debt," 27 Dec. 2018 The network launched an internal investigation, during which the Times claims that CBS' chief compliance officer Mark Engstrom submitted footage of Dushku cursing on set, purportedly to undermine her complaints. Julyssa Lopez, Glamour, "CBS Confirms It Paid Actress Eliza Dushku $9.5 Million to Settle Harassment Claims," 15 Dec. 2018 Thomas Noguchi, the chief medical examiner for the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office, performed the autopsy. Eleanor Hildebrandt, Popular Mechanics, "The True Story of the Lost Sci-Fi Movie "Brainstorm," Natalie Wood’s Last Film," 21 Dec. 2018 Chevese Turner, chief policy and strategy officer at NEDA and former CEO of BEDA, told Teen Vogue that the level of distress after an episode of binge eating is part of what differentiates people with Binge Eating Disorder from people who binge. Brittney Mcnamara, Teen Vogue, "How to Cope With Binge Eating Disorder Over the Holidays," 17 Dec. 2018 David Bernhardt is expected to be named acting Interior secretary by President Donald Trump, following the resignation of current chief Ryan Zinke, which was announced Saturday. Jennifer A. Dlouhy, The Seattle Times, "Zinke’s departure puts Interior in hands of former oil lobbyist," 17 Dec. 2018 Previously, Nikishchenko worked as deputy chief designer in the liquid propulsion department of Ukrainian aerospace company Yuzhnoye and for the Italian launch vehicle company Avio. Eric Berger, Ars Technica, "Rocket Report: Firefly to the Moon, SpaceX makes a splash, H3 nets a customer," 7 Dec. 2018 Town & Country's editor-in-chief Stellene Volandes and O Magazine's creative director Adam Glassman are two people filled with such knowledge. Town & Country, "What to Know Before You Buy Diamond Jewelry," 4 Dec. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Then in April 2018, Tesla lost its third Autopilot chief in 18 months. Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, "The hype around driverless cars came crashing down in 2018," 30 Dec. 2018 Five years after that report, 42-year-old Robert L. Knight, chief of the volunteer fire department in Teague, Texas, died when a commercial building’s parapet wall collapsed. Mike Hendricks, kansascity, "In a tragic loop, firefighters continue to die from preventable mistakes," 13 July 2018 Lina Alathari, chief of the Secret Service's National Threat Assessment Center, said educators have been increasingly moving to create such teams since the 2012 attack at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school that left 26 dead. Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY, "Secret Service urges U.S. schools to set up 'threat teams' to prevent shootings," 12 July 2018 Although Ramos had a safe in his room to store the gun, the chief said, Jace’s father told police that in the past Ramos had left the gun in locations easily accessible to children. Brittny Mejia,, "Fresno man arrested after 2-year-old dies of self-inflicted gunshot wound," 10 July 2018 The deputy chief said the city would likely bulldoze the home given the extensive damage. Perry Vandell, azcentral, "Mesa woman rescued after tree crashes onto home during storm," 9 July 2018 The chief said glass windows at both shops on Wyoming Avenue were cracked, likely by a small stone or a BB gun, but there was no actual breakage and no entry into either business. Jennie Key,, "Wyoming window vandalism random and isolated," 9 July 2018 Monday marked his first day on the job, but Michael Gregory will be officially sworn in Tuesday as Boynton Beach’s new police chief. Marci Shatzman,, "Boynton Beach's new police chief marks first day on job," 9 July 2018 Stevenson retired as a chief of runoff management at the DNR in 2011. Lee Bergquist, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Dairy group uses behind-the-scenes influence with Gov. Scott Walker to shift regulation of large livestock farms," 6 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'chief.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of chief


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


14th century, in the meaning defined above


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for chief

Noun and Adjective

Middle English, from Anglo-French chief, chef head, chief, from Latin caput head — more at head

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Dictionary Entries near chief





chief constable



Statistics for chief

Last Updated

15 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for chief

The first known use of chief was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for chief



English Language Learners Definition of chief

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: highest in rank or authority

: most important



English Language Learners Definition of chief (Entry 2 of 2)

: the person who is the leader of a group of people, of an organization, etc.


\ ˈchēf \

Kids Definition of chief

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: the head of a group : leader the chief of police
in chief
: in the highest ranking position or place editor in chief



Kids Definition of chief (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : highest in rank or authority chief executive
2 : most important : main a chief reason

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More from Merriam-Webster on chief

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with chief

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for chief

Spanish Central: Translation of chief

Nglish: Translation of chief for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of chief for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about chief

Comments on chief

What made you want to look up chief? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


tremendous in size, volume, or degree

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