- a legendary Christian monk and potentate of the Middle Ages, supposed to have had a kingdom in some remote part of Asia or Africa and associated with fabulous narratives of travel.
Examples from the Web for prester john
This empire is known by the name of the kingdom of Prester-John.A Voyage to Abyssinia
- a legendary Christian priest and king, believed in the Middle Ages to have ruled in the Far East, but identified in the 14th century with the king of Ethiopia
Word Origin and History for prester john
c.1300, Prestre Johan, legendary medieval Christian king and priest, said to have ruled either in the Far East or Ethiopia. From Vulgar Latin *prester, a transition between Latin presbyter and English priest. First mentioned in the West by mid-12c. chronicler Otto of Freising, who told how Johannes Presbyter won a great victory over the Persians and the Medes. Between 1165 and 1177 a forged letter purporting to be from him circulated in Europe. All this recalls the time when the Christian West was culturally backwards and militarily threatened, dreaming of a mythical deliverer. Cf. Old French prestre Jehan (13c.), Italian prete Gianni.