One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
Especially in the Byzantine Empire: a senior cleric granted jurisdiction over members of the Greek Orthodox Church.
Late 17th century; earliest use found in George Wheler (1651–1724), Church of England clergyman and scholar. From Byzantine Greek πρωτοπαπᾶς, πρωτοπαππᾶς senior priest from ancient Greek πρωτο- + Byzantine Greek παπᾶς priest. Compare post-classical Latin protopapa, Italian protopapa.
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