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[pri-sen-ter] /prɪˈsɛn tər/
a person who leads a church choir or congregation in singing.
Origin of precentor
1605-15; < Late Latin praecentor leader in music, equivalent to Latin praecen-, variant stem of praecinere to lead in singing (prae- pre- + -cinere, combining form of canere to sing; see canto) + -tor -tor
Related forms
[pree-sen-tawr-ee-uh l, -tohr-] /ˌpri sɛnˈtɔr i əl, -ˈtoʊr-/ (Show IPA),
precentorship, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016.
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Examples from the Web for precentor
Historical Examples
  • He, too, had been a professor of canon law at Oxford, was a chaplain to the Pope and precentor of the cathedral church of Exeter.

  • I think it was the music, or the painted windows, or the precentor.

    The Green Carnation Robert Smythe Hichens
  • "Dearly beloved brethren," began the precentor, pleading, impersonal.

    The Cathedral Sir Hugh Walpole
  • It occurs in Chapter cxv., Of the precentor and his assistant.

    The Care of Books John Willis Clark
  • Between the hymns Mr. Barnes (the precentor) stood three pews behind us.

    Sixty Years of California Song Margaret Blake-Alverson
  • And I'm no' the precentor; I'm no' the man, ye ken, that lifts the tune.

    St. Cuthbert's Robert E. Knowles
  • Since then the precentor's box had preserved its lonely splendour.

    St. Cuthbert's Robert E. Knowles
  • The most uncanny thing about the kirk was the precentor's box beneath the pulpit.

    Auld Licht Idylls J. M. Barrie
  • The eight minor canons received £34 a year, the precentor £14.

  • Directly the precentor begins, silence falls upon them once more.

    Venice Dorothy Menpes
British Dictionary definitions for precentor


a cleric who directs the choral services in a cathedral
a person who leads a congregation or choir in the sung parts of church services
Derived Forms
precentorial (ˌpriːsɛnˈtɔːrɪəl) adjective
precentorship, noun
Word Origin
C17: from Late Latin praecentor leader of the music, from prae before + canere to sing
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for precentor

1610s, from Late Latin praecentor "a leader in singing," from Latin praecantare "to sing before," from prae "before" (see pre-) + canere "to sing" (see chant (v.)). For change of vowel, see biennial.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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