chief·​tain | \ ˈchēf-tən How to pronounce chieftain (audio) \

Definition of chieftain

: a chief especially of a band, tribe, or clan

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Other Words from chieftain

chieftainship \ ˈchēf-​tən-​ˌship How to pronounce chieftainship (audio) \ noun

Examples of chieftain in a Sentence

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Photo composite: Adele Morgan/The Wall Street Journal These businesses gained exemptions after intense lobbying by corporate chieftains during six days of public hearings in August and in a flurry of letters to the U.S. trade representative. Chuin-wei Yap, WSJ, "U.S. Reliance on Obscure Imports From China Points to Strategic Vulnerability," 24 Sep. 2018 That would explain the towering sculpture in the town square, made out of scrap metal, depicting a Muisca chieftain in mid-throw. John Otis, WSJ, "Colombia Wants to Boost Its National Sport. That Might Mean Less Beer.," 4 Dec. 2018 The incumbent, President Michel Temer, is among the old-guard leaders who have become widely despised by the electorate amid mounting reports of systemic corruption by the political chieftains who have run Brasília for decades. Shasta Darlington, New York Times, "From Janitor to Chief Justice: Could Joaquim Barbosa be Brazil’s Next President?," 20 Apr. 2018 At a time when the storied Vice Lords street gang controlled nearly all of the West Side, House — a stout, intimidating, yet charming and approachable chieftain — could compel order from even the angriest young men on the block. William Lee,, "Fierce gang leader went from death row to respected 'Mayor of Chicago Avenue'," 29 June 2018 But in Virginia, the candidates who were favored by party chieftains and seen as most electable bested more liberal insurgents. James Hohmann, Washington Post, "The Daily 202: Mark Sanford’s primary loss shows the peril of crossing Trump," 13 June 2018 Since Trump’s election, the ranks of Never Trump have dramatically shrunk as Republicans, and especially conservatives, have made their peace with the once-terrifying chieftain, or simply kept their mouths shut. Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, "DHS Secretary Nielsen is Not MAGA Enough for Trump’s White House," 11 May 2018 Topping the cast in yet another bombastic performance is veteran funnyman Bob Fetes as the opera chieftain, straining in his fury until his bald pate takes on a reddish glow. Tom Titus,, "On Theater: A wild encore for ‘Tenor’ in Newport Beach," 7 June 2018 Calabrese’s brother Nick testified during the Family Secrets trial that DiFronzo had been among the dozen or more men who fatally beat mob chieftain Anthony Spilotro and his brother Michael in 1986. Bob Goldsborough,, "Reputed Chicago Outfit boss John DiFronzo dies at 89," 30 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'chieftain.' 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 chieftain

14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for chieftain

Middle English chieftaine, from Anglo-French chevetain, from Late Latin capitaneus chief — more at captain

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Last Updated

2 Mar 2019

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Time Traveler for chieftain

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

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More Definitions for chieftain



English Language Learners Definition of chieftain

: a leader of a tribe or clan


chief·​tain | \ ˈchēf-tən How to pronounce chieftain (audio) \

Kids Definition of chieftain

: a chief especially of a band, tribe, or clan

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More from Merriam-Webster on chieftain

Spanish Central: Translation of chieftain

Nglish: Translation of chieftain for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about chieftain

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


of or relating to a parable or parabola

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