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 first Catholic bishop was ordained in China under a new arrangement between the state and the Vatican which gives both a say in appointing prelates. The Economist, "Politics this week," 29 Aug. 2019 Joseph diocese in Missouri was the first and only American prelate convicted for his role in aiding a priest, when he was found guilty of failing to report child pornography on a cleric’s laptop to authorities. Juliet Linderman, Washington Post, "Prosecutors crack down on clergy abuse as bishops gather," 11 June 2019 That investigation, which the Post detailed in a series of reports last month, showed that Bransfield gave cash gifts of $350,000 to fellow clergymen, including powerful prelates and young priests he is accused of mistreating. Chico Harlan,, "Vatican appoints new bishop to scandal-hit West Virginia diocese," 23 July 2019 The trial in a criminal court in Lyon, which starts on Monday, comes as the Catholic Church is under fire over its handling of prelates embroiled in abuse scandals. Francis X. Rocca, WSJ, "French Cardinal’s Trial to Draw Scrutiny of How Church Treats Abuse Cases," 4 Jan. 2019 Joseph diocese in Missouri was the first and only American prelate convicted for his role in aiding a priest, when he was found guilty of failing to report child pornography on a cleric's laptop to authorities. NBC News, "Bishops meeting on sex abuse clouded by state investigations," 11 June 2019 Joseph Bishop Robert Finn, convicted in 2012 for failing to report child pornography on a cleric’s laptop, is the only American prelate convicted for his role in aiding a priest. Martha Mendoza, The Denver Post, "As bishops gather, prosecutors step up scrutiny of Catholic Church," 11 June 2019 Pell was the highest-ranking Catholic prelate to ever face charges for abusing children. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "Australia’s Media Raids and the Decline of Press Freedom Worldwide," 6 June 2019 The former envoy claimed in his letter that numerous other prelates and Vatican officials were also aware of the violations. Francis X. Rocca, WSJ, "Pope Francis Alleged to Have Known in 2013 About Sex-Abuse Charges," 26 Aug. 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

3 Oct 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).


tired or exhausted

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Where in the World? A Quiz

  • peter bruegel tower of babel painting
  • What language does pajama come from?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

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!