Legal Dictionary


Legal Definition of sheriff


  1. An official of a county or parish charged primarily with judicial duties (as executing the processes and orders of courts and judges)
  2. The chief administrative officer of a county who executes the mandates of courts, etc. In the United States, the sheriff is elected by the legislature or by direct vote of the citizens and must be of age, a citizen of the country and reside in the country he represents.

Definition of sheriff


    Old English scīrġer"fa, corresponding to shire + reeve.


  • IPA: /ˈʃɛɹɪf/


sheriff (plural sheriffs)

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

Further reading

A sheriff is in principle a legal official with responsibility for a county. In practice, the specific combination of legal, political, and ceremonial duties of a sheriff varies greatly from country to country.

The word "sheriff" is a contraction of the term "shire reeve". The term, from the Old English scīrgerefa, designated a royal official responsible for keeping the peace (a "reeve") throughout a shire or county on behalf of the king. The term was preserved in England notwithstanding the Norman Conquest. From the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms the term spread to several other regions, at an early point to Scotland, latterly to Ireland and the United States.

Sheriffs exists in various countries:

  • Sheriffs are administrative legal officials (similar to bailiffs) in the Republic of Ireland, Australia, and Canada (with expanded duties in certain provinces).
  • Sheriffs are judges in Scotland.
  • Sheriff is a ceremonial position in England, Wales, and India.
  • In the United States of America the scope of a sheriff varies across states and counties. The sheriff is a always a county official and serves as the arm of the county court. In urban areas a sheriff may be restricted to court duties such as administering the county jail, providing courtroom security and prisoner transport, serving warrants, and serving process. Sheriffs may also patrol outside of the city or town limits. In many rural areas, sheriffs and their deputies serve as the principal police force.

In British English, the political or legal office of a sheriff is called a shrievalty.


  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.


1.     landed property
2.     common stock
3.     lex situs
4.     lex causae
5.     lex fori
6.     status quo
7.     buggery
8.     conclusive presumption
9.     interlocutory
10.     writ of seizure and sale