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 ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
The American Heritage Dictionary Blog
Check out our blog, updated regularly, for new words and revised definitions, interesting images from the 5th edition, discussions of usage, and more.