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[prel-it] /ˈprɛl ɪt/
an ecclesiastic of a high order, as an archbishop, bishop, etc.; a church dignitary.
1175-1225; Middle English prelat < Medieval Latin praelātus a civil or ecclesiastical dignitary, noun use of Latin praelātus (past participle of praeferre to prefer), equivalent to prae- pre- + lātus, suppletive past participle of ferre to bear1
Related forms
prelateship, noun
[pri-lat-ik] /prɪˈlæt ɪk/ (Show IPA),
nonprelatic, adjective
unprelatic, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for prelates
  • Recently, a grey area between the camps had emerged, with many prelates recognised by both sides.
  • The reception and the entertainment of the visiting prelates will bo looked after by the local clergy.
  • prelates from a variety of different religious organizations have been imprisoned or detained or exiled.
  • With little other news, the prelates gained a hearing far beyond their flocks.
  • Too many angels have danced on too many pins as prelates struggle to embrace mutually incompatible beliefs.
  • Throwing a hissy because lawyers and prelates fail to congratulate us on our righteousness is sorry and small.
  • Not only one question is put to her at a time, but several by different prelates.
  • She engaged virtuous and learned prelates to speak to him.
British Dictionary definitions for prelates


a Church dignitary of high rank, such as a cardinal, bishop, or abbot
Derived Forms
prelatic (prɪˈlætɪk), prelatical, adjective
Word Origin
C13: from Old French prélat, from Church Latin praelātus, from Latin praeferre to hold in special esteem, prefer
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for prelates



c.1200, from Old French prelat (Modern French prélate) and directly from Medieval Latin prelatus "clergyman of high rank," from Latin praelatus "one preferred," noun use of past participle of praeferre (see prefer), from prae "before" (see pre-) + latus "borne, carried" (see oblate (n.)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Encyclopedia Article for prelates


an ecclesiastical dignitary of high rank. In the modern Roman Catholic church, prelates are those who exercise the public power of the church. True prelacy is defined as "preeminence with jurisdiction," and true, or real, prelates are distinguished as (1) greater prelates, those who possess episcopal jurisdiction (such as patriarchs, archbishops, and bishops), and (2) lesser prelates, those who possess a quasi-episcopal or other jurisdiction (such as abbots and prelates "of no diocese" and religious superiors, withdrawn from the ordinary diocesan jurisdiction).

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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