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  1. 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.
  2. an introductory part, as of a speech.
  3. something preliminary or introductory: The meeting was the preface to an alliance.
  4. Ecclesiastical. a prayer of thanksgiving, the introduction to the canon of the Mass, ending with the Sanctus.
verb (used with object), pref·aced, pref·ac·ing.
  1. to provide with or introduce by a preface.
  2. 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 formspref·ac·er, nounun·pref·aced, adjective

Synonyms for preface

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1. See introduction. 2, 3. preamble, prologue, prolegomena.

Antonyms for preface

1. appendix. 2, 3. epilogue. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for preface

Contemporary Examples of preface

Historical Examples of preface

British Dictionary definitions for preface


  1. a statement written as an introduction to a literary or other work, typically explaining its scope, intention, method, etc; foreword
  2. anything introductory
  3. RC Church a prayer of thanksgiving and exhortation serving as an introduction to the canon of the Mass
verb (tr)
  1. to furnish with a preface
  2. to serve as a preface to
Derived Formsprefacer, noun

Word Origin for preface

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

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