[proh-vohst, prov-uh st or, esp. in military usage, proh-voh]


a person appointed to superintend or preside.
an administrative officer in any of various colleges and universities who holds high rank and is concerned with the curriculum, faculty appointments, etc.
Ecclesiastical. the chief dignitary of a cathedral or collegiate church.
the steward or bailiff of a medieval manor or an officer of a medieval administrative district.
the mayor of a municipality in Scotland.
Obsolete. a prison warden.

Origin of provost

before 900; Middle English; Old English profost < Medieval Latin prōpositus abbot, prior, provost, literally, (one) placed before, Latin: past participle of prōpōnere. See pro-1, posit
Related formspro·vost·ship, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for provost

Contemporary Examples of provost

  • Previously, she was the president of the University of Pennsylvania and provost of Yale University.

  • As Stanford provost, Rice dismissed, on budgetary grounds, a popular Latina administrator.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Growing Up Condi

    Stephen L. Carter

    October 11, 2010

  • The UCL president and provost, Professor Malcolm Grant is “deeply saddened by these events.”

    The Daily Beast logo
    My Classmate, the Plane Bomber

    Venetia Thompson

    December 30, 2009

  • And then another woman insisted I was the provost of a small university in Southern Florida.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Jane Lynch on Playing Meryl Streep's Sister

    Marshall Heyman

    August 6, 2009

Historical Examples of provost

  • It was Provost, my first professor, who had come to encourage me.

    My Double Life

    Sarah Bernhardt

  • Provost was tall, his silvery hair was blown about, and he had a droll face.

    My Double Life

    Sarah Bernhardt

  • Provost heard my "cue" on the stage, and pushed me gently forward.

    My Double Life

    Sarah Bernhardt

  • "Well, you needn't pay any heed to the Provost, need you," Mr. Quinn retorted.

    Changing Winds

    St. John G. Ervine

  • The provost's men are beating the country for the blackguard.

    The Snare

    Rafael Sabatini

British Dictionary definitions for provost



an appointed person who superintends or presides
the head of certain university colleges or schools
(in Scotland) the chairman and civic head of certain district councils or (formerly) of a burgh councilCompare convener (def. 2)
Church of England the senior dignitary of one of the more recent cathedral foundations
RC Church
  1. the head of a cathedral chapter in England and some other countries
  2. (formerly) the member of a monastic community second in authority under the abbot
(in medieval times) an overseer, steward, or bailiff in a manor
obsolete a prison warder
(prəˈvəʊ) British and Canadian military a military policeman

Word Origin for provost

Old English profost, from Medieval Latin prōpositus placed at the head (of), from Latin praepōnere to place first, from prae- before + pōnere to put
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 provost

Old English profost, reinforced by Old French cognate provost, both from Late Latin propositus (reinforced by Old French cognate provost), from Latin propositus/praepositus "a chief, prefect" (source of Old Provençal probost, Old High German probost, German Propst), literally "placed before, in charge of," from past participle of praeponere "put before" (see preposition). Provost marshal first recorded 1510s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper