Definition of chief in English:


Syllabification: chief
Pronunciation: /CHēf


  • 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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  • 1Most important: the chief reason for the spending cuts chief among her concerns is working alone at night
    More example sentences
    • 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.
    main, principal, most important, primary, prime, first, cardinal, central, key, crucial, essential, predominant, preeminent, paramount, overriding, number-one
  • 1.1Having or denoting the highest rank or authority: the government’s chief adviser
    More example sentences
    • 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.


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.
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

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.


More example sentences
  • This mask, called Mongop, appears to be the authority symbol for chiefship and is associated with agriculture as well.
  • It is therefore not surprising that people from all over the world have legitimate claims to chiefships.
  • ‘The chiefship of Kennedy will remain here, even after I die - strong as ever, as hard as this rock,’ he says.


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

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a small amount; a little