I am in need of a single word for "a chieftain of thieves", if there is any. If there is none, can I use "thieves'-chieftain" instead?

  • From Google Books: the chieftain of thieves, 5 results; the thieves chieftain, 9 results; the arch thief, 1460 results. – FumbleFingers Dec 14 '15 at 17:12
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    "Arch thief" gets so many results comparatively because it's mentioned in once in one very famous work, not necessarily because it's used more frequently (in different works) than the others. They're all sort of awkward to me, but I guess that's just personal preference. Can I suggest "king of thieves"? – Yee-Lum Dec 14 '15 at 17:19
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    Not an answer to your question, but perhaps interesting to know: Definition of “fagin noun, fagin often capitalized: an adult who instructs others (as children) in crime, [derived from] Fagin, [a] character in Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist (1839).” Although Fagin, the character, was the leader of his young band of thieves, the common noun fagin apparently is just used for one who teaches crime to others (and isn’t necessarily their leader/chief, as you’re seeking). – Papa Poule Dec 14 '15 at 23:50

might I suggest ringleader?



noun a person who initiates or leads an illicit or illegal activity.


Capo sense #2

The head of a crime syndicate, especially the Mafia, or a branch of one.


To me, the best alternative would be "king thief".

Sorry! I had accidentally written "king thieve" in place of "king thief". I am sorry for the mistake. I did not mean plural, else I would have written "thieves".

  • Thieves plural, thief singular. – MetaEd Dec 14 '15 at 22:09
  • You are correct. I am sorry. I had accidentally written "king thieve" in place of "king thief". I did not mean plural either, else I would have written "thieves". – Dinesh Kumar Garg Dec 15 '15 at 2:15
  • To "ping" a user you must place @ before their username. When someone leaves a comment, the author of the answer or question is always notified, that's why I don't have to write out your name. – Mari-Lou A Dec 15 '15 at 2:54
  • @Mari-LouA Not always. If you want to be guaranteed that they'll get pinged, yes, but I think sometimes replying next is all it takes. – Nic Hartley Dec 15 '15 at 3:03
  • In a conversation that might work... (let's see if QPT gets this message ) – Mari-Lou A Dec 15 '15 at 3:05

One possible alternative is kingpin. Wikipedia gives some other suggestions.

A crime boss, crime lord, mob boss, kingpin, or Don is a person in charge of a criminal organization. 

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    "Kingpin" is generic. It does not necessarily refer to a king of thieves. – Dinesh Kumar Garg Dec 15 '15 at 3:07

Guildmaster would be a good term for fantasy or science fiction or medieval historical fiction. This comes from the archetypal "thieves' guild" that's prevalent in Dungeons and Dragons and all of it's roll-playing variations over the last 40 years. Many best-selling fantasy authors (R.A. Salvatore, for instance) have used the expression in their works.

  • "Guildmaster" is generic. It does not necessarily refer to a king of thieves. – Dinesh Kumar Garg Dec 16 '15 at 5:57

Perhaps head thief

Example: “You see,” the head thief began, “we are professional pickpockets. As soon as the guards would enter the barracks, we would slip the cards into their pockets.

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