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[pref-is] /ˈprɛf ɪs/
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.
Origin of preface
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
Related forms
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. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for preface
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • And Camons, as observed in the preface, has twice asserted that his machinery is allegorical.

    The Lusiad Lus de Cames
  • Contenting himself with this preface, Roderick began to read.

  • In your preface you say, "What would it avail me in this gloom of solitude?"

    Life of Johnson James Boswell
  • His wife had been very ill when he wrote the preface; soon afterwards she was dead.

    Joseph Andrews Vol. 1 Henry Fielding
  • One thing more about Rice Corner, and then, honor bright, I'll finish the preface and go on with the story.

    Homestead on the Hillside Mary Jane Holmes
British Dictionary definitions for preface


a statement written as an introduction to a literary or other work, typically explaining its scope, intention, method, etc; foreword
anything introductory
(RC Church) a prayer of thanksgiving and exhortation serving as an introduction to the canon of the Mass
verb (transitive)
to furnish with a preface
to serve as a preface to
Derived Forms
prefacer, noun
Word Origin
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 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for preface

late 14c., from Old French preface "opening part of sung devotions" (14c.) and directly from Medieval Latin prefatia, from Latin praefationem (nominative praefatio) "fore-speaking, introduction," in Medieval Latin "prologue," noun of action from past participle stem of praefari "to say beforehand," from prae "before" (see pre-) + fari "speak" (see fame (n.)).


1610s, from preface (n.). Related: Prefaced; prefacing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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