a preliminary statement in a book by the book's author or editor, setting forth its purpose and scope, expressing acknowledgment of assistance from others, etc.
an introductory part, as of a speech.
something preliminary or introductory: The meeting was the preface to an alliance.
Ecclesiastical. a prayer of thanksgiving, the introduction to the canon of the Mass, ending with the Sanctus.
verb (used with object), prefaced, prefacing.
to provide with or introduce by a preface.
to serve as a preface to.

1350–1400; Middle English < Middle French < Medieval Latin prēfātia, for Latin praefātiō a saying beforehand, equivalent to praefāt(us) (past participle of praefārī to say beforehand; see pre-, fate) + -iōn- -ion

prefacer, noun
unprefaced, adjective

1. See introduction. 2, 3. preamble, prologue, prolegomena.

1. appendix. 2, 3. epilogue. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
preface (ˈprɛfɪs)
1.  a statement written as an introduction to a literary or other work, typically explaining its scope, intention, method, etc; foreword
2.  anything introductory
3.  RC Church a prayer of thanksgiving and exhortation serving as an introduction to the canon of the Mass
4.  to furnish with a preface
5.  to serve as a preface to
[C14: from Medieval Latin praefātia, from Latin praefātiō a saying beforehand, from praefārī to utter in advance, from prae before + fārī to say]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

late 14c., from O.Fr. preface (14c.), from M.L. prefatia, from L. præfatio "fore-speaking, introduction, prologue," from præfatus, pp. of præfari "to say beforehand," from præ- "before" + fari "speak" (see fame). The verb is 1616, from the noun.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
This Web site also has an excerpt from the book's preface.
The preface is where the author lays out the reasons he or she wrote the book.
The contention in the preface that Washington was the “most
  ambitious” of the founders seems a stretch.
So, the preface is really a postscript.
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