1. One who is highest in rank or authority; a leader.
a. A chief petty officer.
b. Nautical The chief engineer of a ship.
3. Slang A supervisor; a boss.
4. Heraldry The upper section of a shield.
1. Highest in rank, authority, or office: the chief scientist in the lab.
2. Most important or influential: the chief ingredients in the stew. See Usage Note at absolute.
[Middle English chef, from Old French, from Latin caput, head; see kaput- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Synonyms: chief, foremost, leading1, main, primary, prime, principal
These adjectives refer to what is first in rank, importance, or influence: his chief concern; the foremost scholar in her field; the leading cause of heart disease; the main building on campus; the primary purpose of the legislation; a prime example of wasteful spending; the principal figures in the plot.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.