Definition of chief in English:

chief

noun

  • 1A leader or ruler of a people or clan.

    ‘the chief of the village’
    as title ‘Chief Banawi’
    • ‘And very few of them are presided over by local aristocrats or clan chiefs.’
    • ‘And even in Gaelic tales, the island earned fame for being the penal colony where clan chiefs put their enemies in exile.’
    • ‘Some clan chiefs hedged their bets and sent sons off to fight on opposing sides.’
    • ‘Ironically, the bill could strengthen the clan chief's claims.’
    • ‘The main event of the weekend was the celebration and election of the clan chief.’
    • ‘In rural areas, political control is directed by the village chiefs or chieftainesses.’
    • ‘Other peoples had military leaders, tribal chiefs, or headmen, but not officials.’
    • ‘In consultation with the other women, the clan mother chose one or more men to serve as clan chiefs.’
    • ‘Both parties relied on their own militias, alliances with clan chiefs and security apparatus.’
    • ‘Under the clan system they were pressed into feudal military service by their clan chiefs.’
    • ‘From feudalism a clan chief gained the concept of absolute ownership of land, and the system of succession by primogeniture.’
    • ‘Native leaders today say the chiefs were acting as representatives of sovereign nations when they signed the document.’
    • ‘To help you, you have an ecologist, a business manager, and the chief of the village.’
    • ‘The chief sent out each leader of each group of mercenaries to alert them of the coming battle.’
    • ‘Secondly the security forces pressure the village chiefs to cooperate and if they refuse, they'll be killed.’
    • ‘Others have returned to Harare, claiming village chiefs are refusing to accept them because there is not enough food.’
    • ‘Everybody had done exactly what the village chief had done.’
    • ‘The village chief says he would not give up any of his six children but says others believe they are doing their sons or daughters a favor.’
    • ‘A hush descended on the crowd as the village chief began to speak.’
    • ‘But in this country any one can come in the country waving a letter of permit from a chief whose village is along the border.’
    leader, chieftain, head, headman, ruler, overlord, master, commander, suzerain, seigneur, liege, liege lord, potentate
    head, leading, principal, premier, highest, foremost, supreme, grand, superior, arch-
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1The head of an organization.
      ‘a union chief’
      ‘the chief of police’
      • ‘Mickey's evidence comes from a bureau chief of one of the news organizations.’
      • ‘The discussions between the unions and council chiefs are deadlocked because the employers say they cannot afford to increase their offer.’
      • ‘Police chiefs say the federal government must first secure the country's borders.’
      • ‘A tough warning is being given to rave organisers in mid Essex by police and council chiefs.’
      • ‘Top government officials and police chiefs stand accused of being on his payroll.’
      • ‘The national chief confirmed that his organization is still not sure what its final budget for this year will be.’
      • ‘Strikes that crippled North Yorkshire last month are expected to be repeated as union chiefs urge council workers to reject latest pay offers.’
      • ‘Council chiefs and union officials have stressed that no final figures have been agreed and that negotiations are only about to start.’
      • ‘Residents have held numerous meetings with the college, police and council chiefs to try to resolve problems.’
      • ‘Union bosses met hospital chiefs in a separate meeting earlier in the day.’
      • ‘Union chiefs must sign a business contract agreeing to this or face the possibility of the pit closing.’
      • ‘Governors, state school chiefs and business executives will lead the efforts in each state.’
      • ‘Union chiefs have pledged that a one-day strike by local government workers will not interfere with burials or hit vulnerable people.’
      • ‘Since then, a succession of mayors, city councils and police chiefs have upheld the policy.’
      • ‘Everything else would be handed over to local Chief Constables and directly elected police chiefs.’
      • ‘Union chiefs are now asking the Government to lay down tougher security guidelines for all bus operators.’
      • ‘Police, transport chiefs and Wigan Council have launched a pioneering scheme to kick criminals off buses.’
      • ‘The attacks in Burnley and Nelson have been blasted by fire chiefs, councillors and police.’
      • ‘It may have been St Valentine's Day, but there was little love lost between fire chiefs and union officials at a crunch modernisation meeting.’
      • ‘Seventy-one vacant posts have not been filled following lengthy negotiations between the unions and city finance chiefs.’
      head, principal, chief executive, executive, president, chair, chairman, chairwoman, chairperson, governor, director, administrator, manager, manageress, superintendent, foreman, forewoman, controller, overseer
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2An informal form of address to a man, especially one of superior rank or status.
      ‘it's quite simple, chief’
      • ‘Ah, it's just the main troops, Timmy, nothing to worry about, chief!’
      • ‘Maybe at one time, chief, but the carpet cops have taken over.’
      • ‘There's a button on the left of your keyboard somewhere with the words ‘Caps Lock’ printed on it, chief.’
      • ‘I know it's not my place to disagree with you, chief, but this song worries me.’
  • 2Heraldry
    An ordinary consisting of a broad horizontal band across the top of the shield.

    1. 2.1The upper third of the field.

adjective

  • 1Most important.

    ‘the chief reason for the spending cuts’
    ‘chief among her concerns is working alone at night’
    • ‘The chief concern among skeptics is that young people are not mature or intelligent enough to vote properly.’
    • ‘Among the chief concerns is the bank's investment portfolio, which now makes up more than half of its assets.’
    • ‘Among the chief tactics of the fallen principalities and powers is the incitement of fear.’
    • ‘But in defending his government's right-wing record, he hinted at the chief reason.’
    • ‘It spread across the kingdom to become a matter of chief concern to the government before the rebels agreed to sit down for peace talks.’
    • ‘The fulfillment of God's grand design became the chief concern of human endeavor.’
    • ‘Thankfully, this bewitching musical is as much about sight as sound: the glittering costumes and breathtaking sets are among the chief pleasures.’
    • ‘That's kind of amazing, because everybody who talks about this cites rising productivity as the chief reason.’
    • ‘But surely the chief reason is the way America approaches newcomers.’
    • ‘Among the chief demands of teachers is the provision of technical lab assistants, at a cost of €19 million a year.’
    • ‘The chief reason people send spam is that it's incredibly cheap to do so.’
    • ‘Obviously, location, venue, weather and cost are among the chief factors.’
    • ‘Students are among the chief beneficiaries from the original website's section on festival transport.’
    • ‘The trust's dire financial position is being seen as the chief reason.’
    • ‘Ornithologists tell us that habitat loss is the chief reason for this decline.’
    • ‘Nor would Plato have placed the frenzy of poets and seers among the chief blessings of life, and the oracle would not have called the labours of Aeneas insane.’
    • ‘Among the brothers' chief commissions were those from the Farnese family for decorative schemes in their palace in Rome and their villa at Caprarola.’
    • ‘While not included explicitly among the chief tasks of Soviet forestry, conservation did have a place in the new law.’
    • ‘Then, Ford Motor Company said it ranked dead last in performance among its chief suppliers.’
    • ‘One of the chief roles of calls among songbirds is to find mates, and that takes me back to the topic of sympatric speciation.’
    main, principal, most important, uppermost, primary, prime, first, cardinal, central, key, focal, vital, crucial, essential, pivotal, supreme, predominant, pre-eminent, paramount, overriding, leading, major, ruling, dominant, highest
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1Having or denoting the highest rank.
      ‘the chief economist of a leading bank’
      • ‘With him he had one of his chief advisers and commanders.’
      • ‘He stayed with the brigade, rising through the ranks to chief fire officer, until it was disbanded when the works closed in 1982.’
      • ‘He quickly moved through the ranks to become chief engineer by the outbreak of WWII.’
      • ‘These showed two votes in favour of a rate cut to 4.5%, including that of the bank's chief economist.’
      • ‘‘We want you to build a palace for our King,’ said the chief adviser.’
      • ‘He served as vice president, development economist and chief economist at the World Bank from 1988 to 1990.’
      • ‘In finance news, interest rates aren't likely to rise before the end of the year, according to ANZ bank's chief economist.’
      • ‘Its chief economist says the housing market is witnessing ‘a moderate and orderly slowing’.’
      • ‘As heritage manager, George is the chief adviser to council.’
      • ‘The chief economist for the Mortgage Bankers Assn. is worried enough about the torrid housing market to get out of it.’
      • ‘Between 1993 and 1996 he was the chief economist for Latin America at the World Bank.’
      • ‘The wool market is poised for a price rise within the next two months, according to Woolmark's chief economist.’
      • ‘You had met with their chief science adviser, who is under U.S. custody right now.’
      • ‘Prior to joining the Cranfield School of Management he was chief economist for the NFU, where he worked for 16 years.’
      • ‘He is second permanent secretary at the Treasury, but has also been the senior vice-president and chief economist at the World Bank.’
      • ‘This seems a remarkable view for a former chief economist of the World Bank.’
      • ‘Added extras include personal seminars and advice from the bank's chief economist.’
      • ‘I am the chief science adviser who was appointed because I can get things managed.’
      • ‘There is no way that the chief adviser to the president is going to be someone out on bail.’
      • ‘During the same period, he was chief medical adviser to the Hampshire Fire Brigade.’
      chief, principal, main, leading, highest, high, high-ranking, ruling, commanding
      View synonyms

Phrases

    in chief
    Heraldry
    • At the top; in the upper part.

      • ‘His margin of victory can be taken as evidence that the majority of Americans have confidence in him as the commander in chief.’
      • ‘Being the commander in chief of the Greek armies, Agamemnon's thousand-ship fleet is en route to Troy.’
      • ‘Which begs the question: When did the president become theologian in chief?’
      • ‘Remarkably that allegation was not in the evidence in chief.’
      • ‘In her evidence in chief she described the indecent assault that founded Count 4.’
      • ‘This is written by a team of experienced journalists under the guidance of the editor in chief.’
      • ‘Fortunately, the President is the commander in chief, not the theologian in chief.’
      • ‘In his witness statement, which stood as his evidence in chief, he said this.’
      • ‘Soon after, he became editor in chief and associate publisher, positions he continues to hold today.’
      • ‘You are the manager in chief of a public company, infamous for your undemocratic behaviour and love for power.’
    chief cook and bottle-washer
    informal
    • A person who performs a variety of important but routine tasks.

      • ‘In addition, every article thus far has banged on about the so-called great folk music revival, of which he, as chief cook and bottle-washer of the Fence Collective, is a key player.’
      • ‘An old woman in a small Ontario town looks back on her life as chief cook and bottle-washer for a well heeled Anglo family.’
      • ‘He is the chief cook and bottle-washer for Avalon Audio Services in Phoenix, and is currently pondering the idea of techno remixes of West Texas Swing music.’
    too many chiefs and not enough Indians
    • Used to describe a situation where there are too many people giving orders and not enough people to carry them out.

      • ‘I blame the managers - there are too many chiefs and not enough Indians.’
      • ‘‘There are too many chiefs and not enough Indians,’ she said.’
      • ‘Some demand arbitrary reductions in management staff, believing there are too many chiefs and not enough Indians.’
      • ‘There were too many chiefs and not enough Indians in that respect.’
      • ‘That's too many chiefs and not enough Indians, if you ask me.’
      • ‘It is a party of too many chiefs and not enough Indians - an institutionally top-heavy party.’
      • ‘There are simply too many chiefs and not enough Indians in his side.’
      • ‘There were too many chiefs and not enough Indians.’
      • ‘So, I can't say anything bad, but the thing I can say is that there were just way too many chiefs and not enough Indians.’

Origin

Middle English from Old French chief, chef, based on Latin caput ‘head’.

Pronunciation

chief

/tʃiːf/