Definition of chief in English:


Line breaks: chief
Pronunciation: /tʃiːf


  • 2 Heraldry An ordinary consisting of a broad horizontal band across the top of the shield.
  • 2.1The upper third of the field.


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chief cook and bottle-washer

informal A person who performs a variety of important but routine tasks.
More example sentences
  • 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.

in chief

Heraldry At the top; in the upper part. See also -in-chief.
More example sentences
  • 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?

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.
More example sentences
  • 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.



More example sentences
  • How do we expect development to take place in such chiefdoms?
  • Within the area of his chiefdom, which extends far beyond the village, live 6,800 people.
  • The area was divided into independent chiefdoms.


Middle English: from Old French chief, chef, based on Latin caput 'head'.

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