prel·​ate | \ ˈpre-lət also ˈprē-ˌlāt How to pronounce prelate (audio) \

Definition of prelate

: an ecclesiastic (such as a bishop or abbot) of superior rank

Examples of prelate in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

The pope has faced criticism for supporting prelates accused of committing abuse or covering it up. Francis X. Rocca, WSJ, "French Cardinal’s Trial to Draw Scrutiny of How Church Treats Abuse Cases," 4 Jan. 2019 That could suggest Francis now has an elegant way of getting rid of prelates such as Chilean Cardinal Javier Errazuriz, accused by victims of being a key figure in Chile’s wretched record on abuse and cover-up. Nicole Winfield, The Seattle Times, "Vatican promises ‘clarifications’ to pope cover-up claims," 10 Sep. 2018 Yet the modest prelate’s vision for the Catholic Church made huge waves. Janet I. Tu, The Seattle Times, "Seattle Archbishop Emeritus Raymond Hunthausen dies at 96," 23 July 2018 In the Catholic Church, prelates don’t have the authority to investigate each other. Matthew Hennessey, WSJ, "The Bishop of Catholic Social Media," 29 Nov. 2018 But a bigger obstacle was opposition from prelates in Latin America and the Vatican who suspected Archbishop Romero of Marxist sympathies. Francis X. Rocca, WSJ, "Pope Grants Sainthood to El Salvador’s Martyred Archbishop Romero," 14 Oct. 2018 Other cardinal red hats will go to the head of the Vatican office on doctrinal orthodoxy and another top Holy See official, and prelates in Osaka, Japan, and L'Aquila, Italy, which is still trying to rebuild after a 2009 earthquake. Fox News, "Pope Francis to create 14 new cardinals in June," 20 May 2018 After lunch, the production crew led a procession of pretend prelates, Swiss Guards, nuns and Vatican gendarmes under the arches of the Passetto di Borgo and across Via dei Corridori. New York Times, "‘Extra’ Cardinals Invade the Vatican (Blessings Not Included)," 9 May 2018 The moment was vintage Sullivan, a progressive prelate who has championed a variety of social and religious causes and embraced sometimes controversial views on important issues in the nation’s public discourse. Jan Hefler,, "On immigration rights, gun control, and racial equality, Camden's bishop is a progressive voice for change," 27 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'prelate.' 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 prelate

13th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for prelate

Middle English prelat, from Anglo-French, from Medieval Latin praelatus, literally, one receiving preferment, from Latin (past participle of praeferre to prefer), from prae- + latus, past participle of ferre to carry — more at tolerate, bear

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about prelate

Statistics for prelate

Last Updated

7 Mar 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for prelate

The first known use of prelate was in the 13th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for prelate



English Language Learners Definition of prelate

formal : a high-ranking Christian priest : a bishop, cardinal, etc.

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on prelate

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with prelate

Spanish Central: Translation of prelate

Nglish: Translation of prelate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of prelate for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about prelate

Comments on prelate

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


not to be persuaded, moved, or stopped

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words from Greek and Latin Quiz

  • roman forum
  • Which of the following months comes from a Latin word for “ten”?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Word Winder's CrossWinder

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!