Middle English shir-reve, "high crown official having various legal and administrative duties within a jurisdiction," from late Old English scirgerefa "representative of royal authority in a shire," from scir (see shire) + gerefa "chief, official, reeve" (see reeve).
As a county official in American colonies, later U.S. states, it is attested from 1660s; sheriff's sale is recorded by 1798. Sheriff's tooth (late 14c.) was a common name for the annual tax levied to pay for the sheriff's victuals during court sessions. Related: Sheriffdom; sheriffalty; sheriffhood; sheriffship; sheriffwick.
updated on August 21, 2022