a person whose office it is to perform religious rites, and especially to make sacrificial offerings.
(in Christian use)
  1. a person ordained to the sacerdotal or pastoral office; a member of the clergy; minister.
  2. (in hierarchical churches) a member of the clergy of the order next below that of bishop, authorized to carry out the Christian ministry.
a minister of any religion.

verb (used with object)

to ordain as a priest.

Origin of priest

before 900; Middle English prest(e), priest, Old English prēost, ultimately < Late Latin presbyter presbyter
Related formspriest·less, adjectivepriest·like, adjective, adverban·ti·priest, adjectiveun·der·priest, nounun·priest·like, adjective, adverb
Can be confusedclergy cleric imam minister pastor priest rabbi Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for priests

Contemporary Examples of priests

Historical Examples of priests

  • Do you object to atheism, and yet regard obedience to God as an invention of the priests?

    Weighed and Wanting

    George MacDonald

  • They knew very well that this was their Sacred Stone and that the priests had deceived them.

    The Trail Book

    Mary Austin

  • One day he was detected and captured by the priests and made their slave.

  • I have never been in a land where priests and children were not companions.

    The Underdog

    F. Hopkinson Smith

  • These seigneurs and priests stood together in a common interest.

    In the Valley

    Harold Frederic

British Dictionary definitions for priests


feminine priestess


Christianity a person ordained to act as a mediator between God and man in administering the sacraments, preaching, blessing, guiding, etc
(in episcopal Churches) a minister in the second grade of the hierarchy of holy orders, ranking below a bishop but above a deacon
a minister of any religion
Judaism a descendant of the family of Aaron who has certain privileges in the synagogue service
(in some non-Christian religions) an official who offers sacrifice on behalf of the people and performs other religious ceremonies
(sometimes capital) a variety of fancy pigeon having a bald pate with a crest or peak at the back of the head
angling a small club used to kill fish caught

verb (tr)

to make a priest; ordain
Related formsRelated adjective: hieratic
Derived Formspriestlike, adjective

Word Origin for priest

Old English prēost, apparently from presbyter; related to Old High German prēster, Old French prestre
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 priests



Old English preost probably shortened from the older Germanic form represented by Old Saxon and Old High German prestar, Old Frisian prestere, all from Vulgar Latin *prester "priest," from Late Latin presbyter "presbyter, elder," from Greek presbyteros (see Presbyterian).

An alternative theory (to account for the -eo- of the Old English word) makes it cognate with Old High German priast, prest, from Vulgar Latin *prevost "one put over others," from Latin praepositus "person placed in charge," from past participle of praeponere (see provost). In Old Testament sense, a translation of Hebrew kohen, Greek hiereus, Latin sacerdos.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

priests in Culture


One who is designated an authority on religious matters. In some churches, especially the Anglican Communion, Eastern Orthodox Church, and Roman Catholic Church, the ordained church leader who serves a congregation of believers is called a priest. The priests in these churches administer the sacraments, preach, and care for the needs of their congregations. (See also minister and pastor.)

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.