Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A high administrative official or chief officer, as.
  • noun Any of several high military or civil officials in ancient Rome.
  • noun The chief of police of Paris, France.
  • noun A chief administrative official of a department of France.
  • noun The administrator in charge of discipline at a Jesuit school.
  • noun A student monitor or officer, especially in a private school.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun A governor, commander, chief magistrate, or superintendent.
  • noun A director.
  • noun Tutelary divinity; presiding deity.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun A Roman officer who controlled or superintended a particular command, charge, department, etc.
  • noun France A superintendent of a department who has control of its police establishment, together with extensive powers of municipal regulation.
  • noun In the Greek and Roman Catholic churches, a title of certain dignitaries below the rank of bishop.
  • noun (R. C. Ch.) the head of a mission, not of episcopal rank.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun An official of ancient Rome.
  • noun The head of a department in France.
  • noun A school pupil in a position of power over other pupils.
  • noun A commander.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun a chief officer or chief magistrate

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[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.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Latin praefectus ("overseer, director, prefect"). Literally 'one having been put in charge'.

Examples

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