pre·​fect | \ˈprē-ˌfekt \

Definition of prefect 

1 : any of various high officials or magistrates of differing functions and ranks in ancient Rome

2 : a chief officer or chief magistrate

3 : a student monitor in a usually private school

Examples of prefect in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

There are subplots about whether Rome's hiding Christians should openly, violently revolt, and the internal struggle of the prison's prefect (French actor Olivier Martinez, alone weez eez awk-sent) who hates his gig and has a dying child. Robert Abele,, "'Paul, Apostle of Christ' takes a compelling Biblical character and delivers a ponderous drama," 22 Mar. 2018 Cardinal Tauran, who was born in Bordeaux, France, served in various Vatican embassies before being named chief Vatican archivist, foreign minister, and then prefect of the Vatican office of interfaith relations. Nicole Winfield,, "Cardinal Tauran, who announced pope’s election, dies at 75," 7 July 2018 Tauran, who was born in Bordeaux, served in various Vatican embassies before being named chief Vatican archivist, foreign minister and then prefect of the Vatican office of interfaith relations. Nicole Winfield, Fox News, "Cardinal Tauran, who announced pope's election, dies at 75," 6 July 2018 Paris was rebuilt by Baron Haussmann, his Alsatian prefect. Allan Massie, WSJ, "‘The Shadow Emperor’ Review: The Other Bonaparte," 29 May 2018 Much like real journalists might, the fake ones took a load off on the bases of the columns near the home to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, where Benedict worked as prefect before his election as pope. New York Times, "‘Extra’ Cardinals Invade the Vatican (Blessings Not Included)," 9 May 2018 Oxfam cited the case of 20 unaccompanied African youths returned to Italy — and a court decision this year in Nice that overruled France’s regional prefect who ordered them out. Washington Post, "Oxfam slams treatment of migrants at French-Italian border," 15 June 2018 So a female chef de cabinet (head of staff) is now une cheffe, and a female préfet (prefect) is une préfète. The Economist, "Language activists are trying to make French gender-neutral," 17 May 2018 In 1977, Ratzinger became the archbishop of Munich and Freising, and then, in 1981, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which, once upon a time, was called the Inquisition. Rachel Aviv, The New Yorker, "Will Pope Francis Cause a Schism in the Catholic Church?," 7 Sep. 2015

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'prefect.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of prefect

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for prefect

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin praefectus, from past participle of praeficere to place at the head of, from prae- + facere to make — more at do

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about prefect

Statistics for prefect

Last Updated

2 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for prefect

The first known use of prefect was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for prefect



English Language Learners Definition of prefect

: a chief officer or government official who is responsible for a particular area in some countries (such as Japan and France)

: an older student who is given the job of helping to watch and control younger students in a school

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on prefect

What made you want to look up prefect? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to express warning or disapproval

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Autumn Words of the Day 2018

  • a-top-down-image-of-road-through-an-autumn-forest
  • Which is a synonym of fugacious?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!