or prae·fect

[ pree-fekt ]
/ ˈpri fɛkt /


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.
Roman Catholic Church.
  1. the dean of a Jesuit school or college.
  2. a cardinal in charge of a congregation in the Curia Romana.
Chiefly British. a praeposter.

Nearby words

  1. prefabricate,
  2. prefabricated,
  3. prefabrication,
  4. preface,
  5. prefatory,
  6. prefect apostolic,
  7. prefectorial,
  8. prefectural,
  9. prefecture,
  10. prefecture apostolic

Origin of prefect

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

Related formssub·pre·fect, nounun·der·pre·fect, noun

Can be confusedperfect prefect (see usage note at perfect) Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for prefect

British Dictionary definitions for prefect


/ (ˈpriːfɛkt) /


Also (for senses 4–7): praefect

Derived Formsprefectorial (ˌpriːfɛkˈtɔːrɪəl), adjective

Word Origin for prefect

C14: from Latin praefectus one put in charge, from praeficere to place in authority over, from prae before + facere to do, make

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 prefect



mid-14c., "civil or military official," from Old French prefect (12c., Modern French préfet) and directly from Latin praefectus "public overseer, superintendent, director," noun use of past participle of praeficere "to put in front, to set over, put in authority," from prae "in front, before" (see pre-) + root of facere (past participle factus) "to perform" (see factitious). Spelling restored from Middle English prefet. Meaning "administrative head of the Paris police" is from 1800; meaning "senior pupil designated to keep order in an English school" is from 1864. Related: Prefectorial.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper