• WordNet 3.6
    • n sheriff the principal law-enforcement officer in a county
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Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
  • Interesting fact: In the mall, the fat sheriff with the shotgun fires at the spiders. When the ejected casings hit the ground, they make a metallic "chink" noise. Shotgun casings are made of plastic.
    • n Sheriff 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.☞ In England, sheriffs are appointed by the king. In the United States, sheriffs are elected by the legislature or by the citizens, or appointed and commissioned by the executive of the State. The office of sheriff in England is judicial and ministerial. In the United States, it is mainly ministerial. The sheriff, by himself or his deputies, executes civil and criminal process throughout the county, has charge of the jail and prisoners, attends courts, and keeps the peace. His judicial authority is generally confined to ascertaining damages on writs of inquiry and the like. Sheriff, in Scotland, called sheriff depute, is properly a judge, having also certain ministerial powers. Sheriff clerk is the clerk of the Sheriff's Court in Scotland. Sheriff's Court in London is a tribunal having cognizance of certain personal actions in that city.
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Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
  • Interesting fact: The earliest recorded case of a man giving up smoking was on April 5, 1679, when Johan Katsu, Sheriff of Turku, Finland, wrote in his diary "I quit smoking tobacco." He died one month later.
    • n sheriff 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. In England, the chief officer of the crown in every county or shire, who does all the sovereign's business in the county, the crown by letters patent committing the custody of the county to him alone. Sheriffs are appointed by the crown upon presentation of the judges in a manner partly regulated by law and partly by custom (see pricking); the citizens of London, however, have the right of electing the sheriffs for the city of London and the county of Middlesex. Those appointed are bound under a penalty to serve the office, except in specified cases of exemption or disability. As keeper of the queen's peace, the sheriff is the first man in the county, and superior in rank to any nobleman therein during his office, which he holds for a year. He is specially intrusted with the execution of the laws and the preservation of the peace, and for this purpose he has at his disposal the whole civil force of the county—in old legal phraseology, the posse comitatus. He has also some judicial functions. less extensive now than formerly. The most ordinary of his functions, which he always executes by a deputy called under-sheriff, consists in the execution of writs. The sheriff performs in person such duties only as are either purely honorary, such as attendance upon the judges on circuit, or of some dignity and public importance, such as the presiding over elections and the holding of county meetings, which he may call at any time.
    • n sheriff 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.
    • n sheriff 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.
    • n sheriff See sherif.
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Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
  • Interesting fact: Sheriff came from Shire Reeve. During early years of feudal rule in England, each shire had a reeve who was the law for that shire. When the term was brought to the United States it was shortened to Sheriff.
    • n Sheriff sher′if the governor of a shire: :
    • n Sheriff sher′if (English law) the chief officer of the crown in every county or shire, his duties being chiefly ministerial rather than judicial
    • n Sheriff sher′if (Scots law) the chief magistrate and judge of the county: in the United States the office of sheriff is mainly ministerial, his principal duties to maintain peace and order, attend courts, guard prisoners, serve processes, and execute judgments
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  • John Barrymore
    “If it isn't the sheriff, it's the finance company; I've got more attachments on me than a vacuum cleaner.”


New sheriff in town - This is used when a new authority figure takes charge.


Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
OE. shereve, AS. scīr-gerfa,; scīr, a shire + gerfa, a reeve. See Shire, and Reeve, and cf. Shrievalty
Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
A.S. scir-geréfascir (Eng. shire), geréfa, a governor; cog. with Ger. graf, a count.


In literature:

You see, the authorities, the sheriff, might not want my assistance, as you call it.
"No Clue" by James Hay
By good rights you ought to be turned over to the sheriff.
"Jim Spurling, Fisherman" by Albert Walter Tolman
He had arrived but ten minutes before, and, in the Sheriff's presence, had discovered his loss.
"Northern Lights" by Gilbert Parker
But I reckon I'll be seeing you again anyway, if the sheriff doesn't get me.
"The Trail to Yesterday" by Charles Alden Seltzer
Now, the Sheriff, who has the two homesteaders safe, has let the man we sent him go.
"The Cattle-Baron's Daughter" by Harold Bindloss
I'm only sworn in as acting sheriff for the county until the sheriff returns.
"Penny of Top Hill Trail" by Belle Kanaris Maniates
Oh, boy, I thought I'd die, but I guess the sheriffs liked it.
"Roy Blakeley's Camp on Wheels" by Percy Keese Fitzhugh
He says the sheriff's a crook!
"Shoe-Bar Stratton" by Joseph Bushnell Ames
Their first thought would be to communicate with Morse, with the officers at Mammoth, and with the sheriff of Mesa County.
"Brand Blotters" by William MacLeod Raine
Sheriffs'll go too far if you don't tell 'em where to get off at once in awhile.
"'Me-Smith'" by Caroline Lockhart

In poetry:

And when they came to Nottingham,
They walk-ed in the street,
And with the proud sheriff, i-wis,
Soon-e gan they meet.
"Robin Hood" by Henry Morley
Now hath the sheriff i-swore his oath,
And home he gan to gone,
He was as full of green wood
As ever was heap of stone.
"Robin Hood" by Henry Morley
The sheriff rode, and Little John
Of foot he was full smart,
And when they came afore Robin:
"Lo, here is the master hart!"
"Robin Hood" by Henry Morley
The sheriff swore a full great oath,
By him that died on a tree,
He had liever than an hundred pound,
That Robin Hood had he.
"Robin Hood" by Henry Morley
Down through the crashing underwood,
The burly sheriff came:—
"Stand, Goodman Macy, yield thyself;
Yield in the King's own name."
"The Exiles. 1660" by John Greenleaf Whittier
"And so, sir sheriff and priest, good-by!"
He bent him to his oar,
And the small boat glided quietly
From the twain upon the shore.
"The Exiles. 1660" by John Greenleaf Whittier

In news:

Donations are being accepted for the Cattaraugus County Sheriff's Office's Santa Sheriff program.
The Polk County Sheriff's Office and Pennington County Sheriff's Office are investigating a burglary at the Melo Lutheran Church located in Section 5 of Brandt Township in rural Angus .
He was appointed acting sheriff Oct 1, when Ashe transitioned to become the executive director of the Tennessee Sheriffs' Association.
Wilson County Sheriff Terry Ashe announced Tuesday afternoon he would be stepping down from that position after 30 years to serve as the Executive Director of the Tennessee Sheriffs' Association.
Pickaway County, Ohio, Sheriff Dwight E Radcliff is nation's longest-serving sheriff.
GOLDEN GATE ESTATES — Collier County sheriff's investigators busted a marijuana growing operation valued at about $1.3 million in Golden Gate Estates, sheriff's officials said.
Steuben County Sheriff's Deputies Friday arrested a 27-year-old Campbell man in connection to a series of fuel larcenies the sheriff's office investigated within the past month.
The team of Chico State professors and criminal justice interns working with the Butte County Sheriff's Office to evaluate the Sheriff's Alternative Custody Supervision (ACS) program relea.
According to Custer County Sheriff Dan Osmond, the Custer County Sheriff's Office was called to the residence of Christina Bryant in Ansley around 9:30 Friday, Dec 7.
Sheriff Keith Gary promoted three officers at the Grayson County Sheriff's Office Monday morning.
Sheriff's investigators are searching for a young mother and her infant daughter who have been missing for the past four days, San Bernardino County Sheriff's officials said.
Leah Hogsten The Salt Lake Tribune Washington County Sheriff Cory, foreground, speaks to reporters at a press conference Thursday, Nov 1, 2012, at the Washington County Sheriff's Office in Hurricane.
(Leah Hogsten The Salt Lake Tribune) Washington County Sheriff Cory, foreground, speaks to reporters at a press conference Thursday, Nov 1, 2012, at the Washington County Sheriff's Office in Hurricane.
Sheriff of Marion County to JP Morgan Chase Bank, sheriff's deed.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement gave the go ahead Friday for Sheriff- elect Chris Blair to begin to prepare to take over the reigns of Sheriff in Marion County.