the law-enforcement officer of a county or other civil subdivision of a state.
(formerly) an important civil officer in an English shire.

before 1050; Middle English sher(r)ef, Old English scīrgerēfa. See shire, reeve1

sheriffdom [sher-if-duhm] , noun
subsheriff, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
sheriff (ˈʃɛrɪf)
1.  (in the US) the chief law-enforcement officer in a county: popularly elected, except in Rhode Island
2.  (in England and Wales) the chief executive officer of the Crown in a county, having chiefly ceremonial dutiesRelated: shrieval
3.  (in Scotland) a judge in any of the sheriff courts
4.  (in Australia) an administrative officer of the Supreme Court, who enforces judgments and the execution of writs, empanels juries, etc
5.  (in New Zealand) an officer of the High Court
Related: shrieval
[Old English scīrgerēfa, from scīrshire1 + gerēfareeve1]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin & History

late O.E. scirgerefa "representative of royal authority in a shire," from scir (see shire) + gerefa "chief, official, reeve" (see reeve). In Anglo-Saxon England, the representative of royal authority in a shire. As an American county official, attested from 1662; sheriff's sale first recorded 1798.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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