Definition of prefect in English:



  • 1British (in some schools) a senior pupil who is authorized to enforce discipline.

    • ‘Much of the fun of it back then was trying to find places to smoke where school prefects wouldn't catch us.’
    • ‘The prefect system operated in secondary schools and prefects helped with duties and discipline.’
    • ‘The school chapel became the focal point of life, discipline was enforced through prefects and team games emphasized.’
    • ‘She has organised a charity talent contest and, as a form representative and one of the school's first prefects, she has helped her classmates and younger pupils at the school.’
    • ‘The youngsters are not expected to enforce school rules like a prefect would, but, instead, are meant to be a friendly face for less confident and younger students who do not feel able to approach teachers with problems.’
    • ‘Already he had responsibility within the school and he would have been a school prefect without doubt.’
    • ‘This was a pleasure denied me in my childhood, owing to my being at boarding school, where only prefects were allowed access to the communal wireless.’
    • ‘Set during the Second World War, Raleigh and Groves are two public school prefects in their final year, knowing when they leave they will be called up for military service.’
    • ‘Year 11 pupils, who are prefects and perform that role on the bus, used their mobile telephones to call the emergency services and evacuated the bus, which was leaking fuel.’
    • ‘The school will miss him, he is a prefect and a popular boy with both his peers and those younger and older than himself.’
    • ‘It turned out that we weren't allowed to play too close to the school entrance (though nobody had told me) and this girl was a monitor - junior school equivalent of a prefect.’
    • ‘But these pupils are prefects, not ‘friends’ - and these are two distinct things.’
    • ‘I suppose they gave each class two prefects, partly so that if one of us was ill there would be someone to cover and partly so we could keep each other company.’
    • ‘It was when I had become a school prefect and was put in charge of a dormitory of small boys that I made a decision that if my mind wandered while I was saying my prayers I'd begin all over again.’
    • ‘Discipline was administered by prefects who could refer a boy to a housemaster who in turn could send him to report to the headmaster, usually in that case for poor work in the classroom.’
  • 2A chief officer, magistrate, or regional governor in certain countries.

    ‘each department is governed by a prefect appointed by the President’
    • ‘It sends four deputies to the National Assembly in Paris and in turn receives an appointed prefect who serves as the central government's local executive.’
    • ‘In 1964 regional prefects were brought back to supervise these programmes.’
    • ‘A local administrative layer of stakeholders includes prefects, village chiefs, clan chiefs, and land chiefs.’
    • ‘The corps of centrally appointed prefects endured whatever the nature of the regime in power, stability at the administrative level compensating for the chronic instability caused by the series of upheavals that ensued until 1880.’
    • ‘The head of each region is a prefect appointed by the central government.’
    • ‘Under growing pressure from opponents to end the violence, he said: ‘Wherever it is necessary, prefects will be able to impose a curfew.’’
    • ‘Political authority resides in a prefect appointed by the French president, and two subprefects.’
    • ‘A region is headed by a regional prefect and served by elected regional council members who represent the departments.’
    • ‘In local terms, I guess it's what you call the prefects or the councillors governing the student body.’
    • ‘In one area, angry fishermen dumped tons of fish and rubbish outside the office of the local prefect.’
    • ‘That is why police only intervene when ordered to by local prefects or the Ministry of Interior, and the order is only given when damage to life or property is a serious threat.’
    • ‘‘If they want war,’ the police prefect declares, ‘they will get it.’’
    • ‘Many of its newly appointed prefects lacked experience, old political divisions remained, and there was apathy in areas remote from the German threat.’
    • ‘This gloomy portrait of the current state of morale - or rather the lack of it - was made public yesterday in a damning report by the prefects, the country's top administrators.’
    1. 2.1 A senior magistrate or governor in the ancient Roman world.
      ‘Avitus was prefect of Gaul from AD 439’
      • ‘The head of the civil administration as far as Britain was concerned was the praetorian prefect of the Gauls, based in Trier, to whom the vicarius of the British diocese was responsible.’
      • ‘As a result, a crucial element of the struggle among priests, people, and prefects is missing.’
      • ‘Here I collect a toll from wayfarers which once would have been remitted to the temple of Amon once a year, but now is sent directly to the Roman prefect!’
      • ‘Eventually the Visigoths, after a brief period of fighting for the Romans in Spain, were established in south-west Gaul in 418 by the praetorian prefect.’
      • ‘The king bellowed, ‘The prefect is a typical Roman rhetorician - he speaks of everything and understands nothing.’’
      • ‘The Roman prefect was Caiaphas' political superior and even controlled when the Jewish priests could wear their vestments and thus conduct Jewish rites in the Temple.’
      • ‘The provinces were grouped into larger administrative units called a diocese, ruled by a governor general who answered to a praetorian prefect, who in turn answered to one of the tetrarchs.’
      • ‘Tales of Titus' violence as a praetorian prefect and his sexual debauchery preceded his office.’
      • ‘A passion drama, in my opinion, should certainly mention the undisputed fact that Caiaphas was dependent on the Roman prefect, Pontius Pilate, to retain his position as high priest.’
      • ‘The prefect, Pontius Pilate, is Caesar's ranking representative in the province, a place riven with fierce religious disputes. - > Lord of the strings Music’
      • ‘He was tried, after a fashion, and turned over to the Roman prefect, with the recommendation that he be executed.’
      • ‘In 1775 the prefect, M. Paradis, with his companion and 300 families were expelled by the English.’
      • ‘In 1879 prefects had been given the power to order that all teaching posts vacated by clerical teachers be filled by lay ones.’
      • ‘Yet reasons why a Roman prefect might want to execute Jesus are not difficult to discern.’
      • ‘During the Restoration, the prefect (through the minister of the interior) simply annulled the deliberations of the municipal council.’
      • ‘He also placed them under equestrian prefects instead of the traditional senatorial legates and placed a Christian symbol on their standards.’
      • ‘Algerian departmental prefects therefore signed contracts with asylums in southern France for their patients' treatment at Algerian expense.’
      • ‘However the Roman prefect of Alexandria was Orestes and Cyril and Orestes became bitter political rivals as church and state fought for control.’


Late Middle English (in prefect (sense 2)): from Old French, from Latin praefectus, past participle of praeficere ‘set in authority over’, from prae ‘before’ + facere ‘make’. prefect (sense 1) dates from the early 19th century.