Opperhoofd is a Dutch word (plural opperhoofden) that literally translates to "upper-head", meaning "supreme headman". The Danish cognate overhoved, which is a calque derived from a Danish pronunciation of the Dutch or Low German[1] word, is also treated here. The standard German cognate is Oberhaupt.

In modern Dutch, opperhoofd remains in use for a native tribal chief, such as a sachem of Native Americans. Despite the superlative etymology, it can be applied to several chiefs in a single native community. The derived Danish word høvding also carries this same meaning.

However, this article is devoted to its more former, historical use as a gubernatorial title, comparable to the English chief factor, for the chief executive officer of a Dutch factorij in the sense of trading post, as led by a factor, i.e. agent.

The etymologically cognate title of Danish overhoved (singular) had a similar gubernatorial use (sometimes rendered in English as station chief), notably on the Danish Gold Coast.[a]

Dutch colonial opperhoofden

In Asia

The factory established on 20 September 1609 at Hirado by the Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie, VOC), next in 1641, as the Dutch factorij was moved by order of the shogunate thereto, on Dejima (Desjima in purist Dutch, or Latinized as Decima) Island, in Nagasaki Bay.[2] The trading post was maintained under the Dutch state after the 1795 end of VOC administration till on 28 February 1860 Dejima was abandoned.[b]

In Africa

See also


  1. ^ "Opperhoofd". Etymologiebank.nl (in Dutch). Retrieved 24 March 2022.
  2. ^ Screech 2006, pp. 5–6.
  3. ^ "Mozambique". De VOCsite (in Dutch). Retrieved 24 March 2022.