or prae·fect

[ pree-fekt ]

  1. a person appointed to any of various positions of command, authority, or superintendence, as a chief magistrate in ancient Rome or the chief administrative official of a department of France or Italy.

  2. Roman Catholic Church.

    • the dean of a Jesuit school or college.

    • a cardinal in charge of a congregation in the Curia Romana.

  1. Chiefly British. a praepostor.

Origin of prefect

First recorded in 1300–50; Middle English, from Latin praefectus “overseer, director” (noun use of past participle of praeficere “to make prior,” i.e., “put in charge”), equivalent to prae- “before, prior to” (see pre-) + -fectus (combining form of factus, past participle of facere “to make, do” (see do1); see fact

Other words from prefect

  • sub·pre·fect, noun
  • un·der·pre·fect, noun

Words that may be confused with prefect

Words Nearby prefect Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use prefect in a sentence

  • But one day the prefect Agricola instituted a chase, and his party discovered the holy bishop and brought him before their master.

British Dictionary definitions for prefect


/ (ˈpriːfɛkt) /

  1. (in France, Italy, etc) the chief administrative officer in a department

  2. (in France, etc) the head of a police force

  1. British a schoolchild appointed to a position of limited power over his fellows

  2. (in ancient Rome) any of several magistrates or military commanders

  3. Also called: prefect apostolic RC Church an official having jurisdiction over a missionary district that has no ordinary

  4. RC Church one of two senior masters in a Jesuit school or college (the prefect of studies and the prefect of discipline or first prefect)

  5. RC Church a cardinal in charge of a congregation of the Curia

Origin of prefect

C14: from Latin praefectus one put in charge, from praeficere to place in authority over, from prae before + facere to do, make
  • Also (for senses 4–7): praefect

Derived forms of prefect

  • prefectorial (ˌpriːfɛkˈtɔːrɪəl), adjective

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