Prester John

Prester John

[pres-ter]
noun
a legendary Christian monk and potentate of the Middle Ages, supposed to have had a kingdom in some remote part of Asia or Africa and associated with fabulous narratives of travel.
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World English Dictionary
Prester John (ˈprɛstə)
 
n
a legendary Christian priest and king, believed in the Middle Ages to have ruled in the Far East, but identified in the 14th century with the king of Ethiopia
 
[C14 Prestre Johan, from Medieval Latin presbyter Iohannes Priest John]

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Word Origin & History

Prester John
c.1300, Prestre Johan, legendary medieval Christian king and priest, said to have ruled either in the Far East or Ethiopia. From V.L. *prester, a transition between L. presbyter and Eng. priest. First mentioned in the West by mid-12c. chronicler Otto of Freising, who told how Johannes Presbyter won a
great victory over the Persians and the Medes. Between 1165 and 1177 a forged letter purporting to be from him circulated in Europe. Reflects the time when the Christian West was culturally backwards and militarily threatened, dreaming of a mythical deliverer. Cf. O.Fr. prestre Jehan (13c.), It. prete Gianni.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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