One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
In early use: †the first candle-bearer or chief office-holder below a bishop; also figurative (obsolete). Later: any of various senior ecclesiastical officials or dignitaries exercising a variety of functions (now historical).
Late Middle English; earliest use found in John Lydgate (c1370–c1449), poet and prior of Hatfield Regis. From post-classical Latin primicerius the first among those holding a similar office from classical Latin prīmus + cēra wax + -ius, suffix forming adjectives, with reference to the wax-coated tablets on which the names of office-holders were inscribed. In some forms after French primicier senior ecclesiastical dignitary.
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