From Old Frisian hāvdling (“high member of the nobility”), probably via Middle Low German. Analyzable as Haupt + -ling. The umlaut is probably due to the northern origin of the word and derives from the earlier Central German variant Häupt, though it might also be due to analogy with other words in -ling. The word was first adopted in the sense of “patriarch, family leader”, but was transferred and soon restricted to the ethnological sense of “chief” in the 19th century (as a loose equivalent of the English word).
- chief (leader or co-leader of a tribe)
- (humorous) leader of some other kind
- (obsolete) patriarch (leader of a family)
- (obsolete) high member of the Frisian nobility
- Häuptling in Duden online