from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A public officer in the United States with responsibility for certain law enforcement and administrative legal duties, such as making arrests and serving processes, usually for a particular county.
  • noun A public officer in various other countries performing certain law enforcement, judicial, or ceremonial functions.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun See sherif.
  • noun The chief civil officer charged with administering justice within a county, under direction of the courts, or of the crown or other executive head of the state, and usually having also some incidental judicial functions.
  • noun In Scotland, the chief local judge of a county. There are two grades of sheriffs, the chief or superior sheriffs and the sheriffs-substitute (besides the lord lieutenant of the county, who has the honorary title of sheriff-principal), both being appointed by the crown. The chief sheriff, usually called simply the sheriff, may have more than one substitute under him, and the discharge of the greater part of the duties of the office now practically rests with the sheriffs-substitute, the sheriff being (except in one or two cases) a practising advocate in Edinburgh, while the sheriff-substitute is prohibited from taking other employment, and must reside within his county. The civil jurisdiction of the sheriff extends to all personal actions on contract, bond, or obligation without limit, actions for rent, possessory actions, etc., in which cases there is an appeal from the decision of the sheriff-substitute to the sheriff, and from him to the Court of Session. He has also a summary jurisdiction in small-debt cases where the value is not more than £12. In criminal cases the sheriff has jurisdiction in all offenses the punishment for which is not more than two years' imprisonment. He has also jurisdiction in bankruptcy cases to any amount.
  • noun In the United States, except in New Hampshire and Rhode Island, sheriffs are elected by popular vote, the qualification being that the sheriff must be a man, of age, a citizen of the United States and of the State, and a resident in the county; usually he can hold no other office, and is not eligible for reëlection until after the lapse of a limited period. In all the States there are deputy sheriffs, who are agents and servants of the sheriff. In New York and some other States there is, as in England, an under-sheriff, who acts in place of his chief in the latter's absence, etc. The principal duties of the sheriff are to preserve peace and order throughout the county, to attend the courts as the administrative officer of the law, to guard prisoners and juries, to serve the process and execute the judgments of the courts, and to preside at inquisitions and assessments of damages on default.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun The chief officer of a shire or county, to whom is intrusted the execution of the laws, the serving of judicial writs and processes, and the preservation of the peace.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun UK, except, Scotland (High Sheriff) An official of a shire or county office, responsible for carrying out court orders and other duties.
  • noun Scotland A judge in the sheriff court, the court of a county or sheriffdom.
  • noun US A police officer, usually the chief of police for a county or other district.

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

  • noun the principal law-enforcement officer in a county


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

[Middle English, the representative of royal authority in a shire, from Old English scīrgerēfa : scīr, shire + gerēfa, reeve.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Old English scīrġerēfa, corresponding to shire + reeve.


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  • Despite having lived in Scotland for four decades, Gloria found that the word "sheriff" did not immediately conjure up the Scottish judiciary. Instead she tended to see tin stars at high noon and Alan Wheatley as the evil Sheriff of Nottingham in the old children's television program Robin Hood.
    Kate Atkinson, One Good Turn (New York: Little, Brown & Co., 2006), p. 104.

    June 5, 2016