Meaning of CHIEF in English


I. ˈchēf noun

( plural chiefs ˈchēfs sometimes -ēvz)

Etymology: Middle English chief, chef, from Old French chief, chef, from Latin caput head — more at head


a. obsolete : the top or uppermost part : head

b. heraldry

(1) : the upper part of the field — compare escutcheon 1

(2) : a horizontal band at the top of the field


a. : the head or leader of any body of men : a commander (as of an army) or a headman (as of a tribe, clan, or family)

b. : the directing head of a political party, government bureau or department, or office organization

chief of mission

also : one's superior in such a body

c. : an officer in charge of any of certain branches or departments of the service — used in titles

Chief of Staff

Chief of Ordnance

d. : a chief officer of a department of government

Chief of Police

Fire Chief

e. : chief petty officer

3. : the principal part : the most valuable portion

this London where the chief of his life must pass — John Galsworthy

- in chief

II. adjective

( -er/-est )

Etymology: Middle English chef, chief, from chef, chief, n.

1. : accorded highest rank, office, or rating

chief executive

: superior in authority, power, or influence

chief prelate of our church, archbishop, first in council — Alfred Tennyson

2. : marked by greatest importance, significance, influence : salient : subordinating other persons, things, items of the same kind or class

his chief fame rests on his important volumes — A.V.W.Jackson

3. now chiefly Scotland : intimate , friendly , close

a whisperer separates chief friends — Prov 16:28 (Revised Standard Version)


principal , main , leading. foremost, capital all indicate first in importance and are often interchangeable. chief may stress the fact of the existence of subordinate matters

so many young people of today have lost sight of the fact that duty, not pleasure, is the chief aim of living — Ellen Glasgow

one of the performances I remember extremely vividly, because the chief turn consisted of four performing elephants — Osbert Sitwell

principal is likely to indicate greatest importance or power and influence, with other matters as minor

after summing all the rest, religion ruling in the breast, a principal ingredient — William Cowper

the central point of interest, unforgotten, absorbing, principal — Matthew Arnold

the country of the Shilluk is almost entirely in grass, hence the principal wealth of the people consists in their flocks and herds — J.G.Frazer

main stresses greater size, power, or importance

the main line express services tended to further this concentration, and the feeder lines and cross country services ran down, died out, or were deliberately extirpated — Lewis Mumford

the literary critic … will yet find, like the historian, his main subject-matter in the past — L.P.Smith

leading stresses precedence or coming before others in a series, sequence, or progression

if John of Gaunt was fallen from his old power he was still the leading noble in the realm — J.R.Green

Massachusetts furnished one of the leading defenders of the disturbing views of Darwin in the person of Asa Gray Fisher, professor of botany at Harvard — American Guide Series: Massachusetts

foremost is often the equivalent of leading but may more strongly suggest the notion of a course, race, chase, or contest

within a year the Bulletin had outstripped all other papers in the city, winning recognition as the foremost champion of the people's right — American Guide Series: California

the clock has been the foremost machine in modern technics: and at each period it has remained in the lead: it marks a perfection toward which other machines aspire — Lewis Mumford

capital stresses the idea of major significance or importance

the capital as well as the trivial sins — Henry Miller

III. adverb

Etymology: chief (II)

archaic : chiefly , principally

Webster's New International English Dictionary.      Новый международный словарь английского языка Webster.