• WordNet 3.6
    • n ringleader a person who leads (especially in illicit activities)
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Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
    • Ringleader Opprobriously, a leader of a body of men engaged in the violation of law or in an illegal enterprise, as rioters, mutineers, or the like. "The ringleaders were apprehended, tried, fined, and imprisoned."
    • Ringleader The leader of a circle of dancers; hence, the leader of a number of persons acting together; the leader of a herd of animals. "A primacy of order, such an one as the ringleader hath in a dance."
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Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
    • n ringleader One who leads a ring, as of dancers; one who opens a ball.
    • n ringleader Hence The leader or chief in any enterprise; particularly, one who leads and incites others to the violation of the law or the recognized rules of society: as, the ringleader in a riot or a mutiny.
    • ***
Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
    • Ringleader the head of a riotous body: one who opens a ball
    • ***


Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
A.S. hring; Ice. hring-r, Ger., Dan., and Sw. ring.


In literature:

The philosophers are worse than the artists; they are the ringleaders of the betrayers of humanity.
"An Anarchist Woman" by Hutchins Hapgood
Seven ringleaders had just been hanged, and five more were in prison under sentence of death.
"The Discovery of America Vol. 1 (of 2)" by John Fiske
He sent for the ringleaders and remonstrated with them.
"Merry-Garden and Other Stories" by Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch
The judges on their circuits hanged the ringleaders without mercy.
"A Student's History of England, v. 1 (of 3)" by Samuel Rawson Gardiner
You captured the two ringleaders.
"Anderson Crow, Detective" by George Barr McCutcheon
A plot for a Negro uprising was formed; but the plot was discovered and the ringleaders were punished.
"Religious Life of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century" by George MacLaren Brydon
He laid out two of the ringleaders and shamed them in public.
"Ralph on the Overland Express" by Allen Chapman
There were no doubt instigators amongst you, and for the sake of those ringleaders I shall punish you all.
"The Madcap of the School" by Angela Brazil
So I am not much of a ringleader.
"Shaman" by Robert Shea
Mr. Coleridge observes that he was anything but a passive victim, and turned fiercely upon the ringleaders of his enemies.
"The Life of Sir James Fitzjames Stephen, Bart., K.C.S.I." by Sir Leslie Stephen

In news:

FBI takes over Rustock botnet investigation, aims for ringleader .
The reported ringleader of a group of Stryker brigade soldiers who allegedly murdered Afghan civilians last year is due in court for a pretrial hearing tomorrow at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Pakistani Authorities Said to Arrest Suspected Ringleader in Mumbai Attacks.
In unconfirmed raid, Pakistan seizes Mumbai attack ringleader .
Ringleader of '85 Achille Lauro Hijacking Says Killing Wasn't His Fault.
Czechs Confirm Iraqi Agent Met With Terror Ringleader .
Ringleader gets over 11 years.
Accused heroin operation ringleader in custody.
Harmless radio breakfast flake & ringleader of K103 in the morning.
In unconfirmed raid, Pakistan seizes Mumbai attack ringleader.
Prosecutors also revealed that a fourth man, accused ringleader and former.
Perhaps, though, he was more of the ringleader, or spokesman for the group.
Federal prosecutors say a Southern California man suspected of being the ringleader of a plot to kill Americans by aiding terrorists in Afghanistan has been ordered held without bond .
RIVERSIDE, Calif — Federal prosecutors say a Southern California man suspected of being the ringleader of a plot to kill Americans by aiding terrorists in Afghanistan has been ordered held without bond.
The ringleader nabbed in a Columbia University drug bust that stunned the Morningside Heights campus last year began serving a six-month sentence Tuesday.