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 chieftain (audio) \ noun

Examples of chieftain in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web One item from the 1680s, a 26-inch wampum belt made of animal hide, glass and shell beads, is said to have been a gift to William Penn, the city’s founder, from a chieftain of the local Lenape tribe. Peter Saenger, WSJ, "The Philadelphia Museum of Art Reimagines the City’s History," 2 Apr. 2021 From left: The Callanish Stones, on the Isle of Lewis and Harris, are thought to be more than 5,000 years old; Monkstadt 1745, a once-derelict home of a clan chieftain that was recently repurposed as a boutique hotel. Stanley Stewart, Travel + Leisure, "Visit Distilleries, Castles, and Dramatic Cliffs on Scotland’s Hebrides Islands," 22 Mar. 2021 Today, Adjuah is a chieftain as well, starting his own tribe, Chief Adjuah and the Xodokan Nation, in 2017. Washington Post, "Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah was one of the last musicians to perform in a New York club. The resulting album could win him a Grammy.," 12 Mar. 2021 Last year Vancouver Public Schools' Board of Directors voted to stop using the chieftain mascot at Columbia River High School and Minnehaha Elementary School. Fox News, "Washington state bill would ban Native American mascots at public schools," 7 Feb. 2021 The son of a wealthy chieftain in West Africa had just returned home from an apprenticeship when a raiding army attacked their village. Lindsey Mcginnis, The Christian Science Monitor, "Storied narrative’s translation prompts a fresh look at the slave trade," 1 Dec. 2020 The text that mentions Odin’s law-giving, the Ynglinga Saga, wasn’t written until the thirteenth century, by Snorri Sturluson, an Icelandic poet and chieftain. Rebecca Mead, The New Yorker, "The Curse of the Buried Treasure," 9 Nov. 2020 Some Anchorage clients have asked the hedge fund whether the perks and privileges that come with being a Hollywood chieftain have influenced Mr. Ulrich’s call to stay with MGM, the lengthiest and largest investment in Anchorage’s history. Juliet Chung, WSJ, "It’s ‘No Time to Die’ for Hedge-Fund Manager Ulrich’s Big James Bond Bet," 11 Oct. 2020 As Hood notes, the archaeologists found no evidence clearly identifying the older man as a shaman, nor suggesting that he was sacrificed to ensure the chieftain’s safe passage into the afterlife. Alex Fox, Smithsonian Magazine, "Bronze Age Chieftain’s Remains Found Beneath U.K. Skate Park," 5 May 2020

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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Time Traveler for chieftain

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

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Statistics for chieftain

Last Updated

11 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Chieftain.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 May. 2021.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on chieftain

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

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