Definition of precentor in English:



  • 1A person who leads a congregation in its singing or (in a synagogue) prayers.

    • ‘Synagogues began… to appoint official precentors, part of whose duty it was to compose poetical additions to the liturgy on special Sabbaths and festivals.’
    • ‘Line-singing is an ancient form of worship where a precentor, or leader, sings the first line of a psalm and the congregation responds, finishing off the verse.’
    • ‘He explains that his wife's grandfather was a Gaelic precentor who led the singing of the psalms in Skye.’
    • ‘If so, how are they different from a precentor standing out from his choir?’
    • ‘It is said that when one of the incumbent ministers asked his superiors for an additional bathroom for the house, he was given the choice of that or the services of a precentor (praise leader) for the church.’
    1. 1.1 A minor canon who administers the musical life of a cathedral.
      • ‘In the English dissenting churches and the Presbyterian churches of Scotland, which until the later 19th century had no organs, the precentor was an important official.’
      • ‘The post-Reformation choir was usually split into two antiphonal groups: cantoris on the precentor's side and decani opposite on the dean's side.’
      • ‘For instance, Linacre, the personal physician of Henry VIII, had the been rector of four parishes, a canon at three cathedrals and precentor at York Minster.’
      • ‘Exeter's was built in 1286 by the cathedral dean as an act of amends for his alleged involvement in the murder of his deputy, the cathedral precentor three years earlier.’


Early 17th century: from French précenteur or Latin praecentor, from praecent- ‘sung before’, from the verb praecinere, from prae ‘before’ + canere ‘sing’.