Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. The leader or head of a group, especially of a clan or tribe.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A leader of a clan or tribe.
  • n. A leader of a group, e.g. a robbers' chieftain.
  • n. The name of a British military tank.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A captain, leader, or commander; a chief; the head of a troop, army, or clan.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A captain, leader, or commander; a chief; the head of a troop, army, or clan.
  • n. Synonyms Commander, Leader, etc. See chief.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. the head of a tribe or clan
  • n. the leader of a group of people

Etymologies

Middle English cheftain, from Old French chevetain, from Late Latin capitāneus, from Latin caput, head; see kaput- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English cheftayne, a variant of Old French chevetaine, from Late Latin capitaneus (English captain), from Latin caput ("head"), from Proto-Indo-European *kauput- (English head). (Wiktionary)

Examples

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