Definitions

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

  • n. The leader of a Greek chorus.
  • n. A leader or spokesperson.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The conductor or leader of the dramatic chorus in Ancient Greece.
  • n. The chief or leader of a party or interest.

Etymologies

Latin, leader, from Greek koruphaios, from koruphē, head; see ker-1 in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Latin coryphaeus, from Ancient Greek κορυφαῖος (koruphaios, "leader"), from κορυφή (koruphē, "head"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • The morrice dancers accordingly set out upon their further progress, dancing and carolling as they went along to the sound of four musicians, who led the joyous band, while Simon Glover drew their coryphaeus into his house, and placed him in a chair by his parlour fire.

    The Fair Maid of Perth

  • Hey, Rob, I love your far-out "what if -?" scenarios, Naturally, I'd enjoy the tiger getting his tail really twisted, but don't you feel Nancy would make a fine female first fiddle, a commendable, callipygian coryphaeus?

    Will Republicans Find the Courage to Tell Bush and Cheney It Is Time To Go?

  • It will be remembered that he was the martial coryphaeus who led my little army to war against Mirambo, chanting the battle-song of the

    How I Found Livingstone

  • Bad flute-players twist and twirl, if they have to represent ‘the quoit-throw,’ or hustle the coryphaeus when they perform the

    Poetics

  • Walter Roman was not only "a member of the International Brigade in Spain" but also a prominent coryphaeus of the Communist Party and of the Comintern, who became also, after the communist take-over of Romania, the political leader of the Romanian army.

    Survival in Romania

  • The Soviet Union was ferociously reviled by the reaction and its coryphaeus at the service of the exploiters.

    MASS RALLY

  • The chief circumstance to which he owed this sudden wave of popularity was the adroitness with which he succeeded in putting himself at the head of the particular movement of which Daniel the Stylite was both the coryphaeus and the true inspirer.

    The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 1: Aachen-Assize

  • The great coryphaeus of the South-Galatian theory is Prof. Sire W.M. Ramsay.

    The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 6: Fathers of the Church-Gregory XI

  • A singer could never tolerate a lyre that did not match his voice, nor a coryphaeus a chorus that did not chant in tune.

    NPNF2-08. Basil: Letters and Select Works

  • In time it became the custom for the leader, or coryphaeus, to be answered by one single member of the chorus, the latter being thus used merely for the chanting of commentaries on the narrative.

    Critical and Historical Essays Lectures delivered at Columbia University

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  • Heaven knows what sort of performers we must have been, when they took me for the Coryphaeus of the opera, though I never had but two or three lessons from a petty dancing-master, who taught the pages on the establishment of the Marchioness de Chaves.

    - Lesage, The Adventures of Gil Blas of Santillane, tr. Smollett, bk 9 ch. 3

    October 7, 2008