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[pref-is] /ˈprɛf ɪs/
a preliminary statement in a book by the book's author or editor, setting forth its purpose and scope, expressing acknowledgment of assistance from others, etc.
an introductory part, as of a speech.
something preliminary or introductory:
The meeting was the preface to an alliance.
Ecclesiastical. a prayer of thanksgiving, the introduction to the canon of the Mass, ending with the Sanctus.
verb (used with object), prefaced, prefacing.
to provide with or introduce by a preface.
to serve as a preface to.
Origin of preface
1350-1400; Middle English < Middle French < Medieval Latin prēfātia, for Latin praefātiō a saying beforehand, equivalent to praefāt(us) (past participle of praefārī to say beforehand; see pre-, fate) + -iōn- -ion
Related forms
prefacer, noun
unprefaced, adjective
1. See introduction. 2, 3. preamble, prologue, prolegomena.
1. appendix. 2, 3. epilogue. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for preface
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Contenting himself with this preface, Roderick began to read.

  • The Maxims were first published in 1665, with a preface by Segrais.

    Reflections Francois Duc De La Rochefoucauld
  • His wife had been very ill when he wrote the preface; soon afterwards she was dead.

    Joseph Andrews Vol. 1 Henry Fielding
  • It forms the preface to an American edition of my so-called Fairy Tales.

    A Dish Of Orts George MacDonald
  • Drafts for the dedication, the preface, and for a work on Esthetics.

    Albert Durer T. Sturge Moore
British Dictionary definitions for preface


a statement written as an introduction to a literary or other work, typically explaining its scope, intention, method, etc; foreword
anything introductory
(RC Church) a prayer of thanksgiving and exhortation serving as an introduction to the canon of the Mass
verb (transitive)
to furnish with a preface
to serve as a preface to
Derived Forms
prefacer, noun
Word Origin
C14: from Medieval Latin praefātia, from Latin praefātiō a saying beforehand, from praefārī to utter in advance, from prae before + fārī to say
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 preface

late 14c., from Old French preface "opening part of sung devotions" (14c.) and directly from Medieval Latin prefatia, from Latin praefationem (nominative praefatio) "fore-speaking, introduction," in Medieval Latin "prologue," noun of action from past participle stem of praefari "to say beforehand," from prae "before" (see pre-) + fari "speak" (see fame (n.)).


1610s, from preface (n.). Related: Prefaced; prefacing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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