from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition
- n. A high administrative official or chief officer, as:
- n. Any of several high military or civil officials in ancient Rome.
- n. The chief of police of Paris, France.
- n. A chief administrative official of a department of France.
- n. The administrator in charge of discipline at a Jesuit school.
- n. A student monitor or officer, especially in a private school.
from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License
- n. An official of ancient Rome.
- n. The head of a department in France.
- n. A school pupil in a position of power over other pupils.
- n. A commander.
from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English
- n. A Roman officer who controlled or superintended a particular command, charge, department, etc.
- n. A superintendent of a department who has control of its police establishment, together with extensive powers of municipal regulation.
- n. In the Greek and Roman Catholic churches, a title of certain dignitaries below the rank of bishop.
from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n. A governor, commander, chief magistrate, or superintendent.
- n. A director.
- n. Tutelary divinity; presiding deity.
from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.
- n. a chief officer or chief magistrate
Middle English, from Old French, from Latin praefectus, from past participle of praeficere, to place at the head of : prae-, pre- + facere, to make; see dhē- in Indo-European roots.(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Latin praefectus ("overseer, director, prefect"). Literally 'one having been put in charge'. (Wiktionary)