Definition of precentor in US English:



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

    • ‘If so, how are they different from a precentor standing out from his choir?’
    • ‘Synagogues began… to appoint official precentors, part of whose duty it was to compose poetical additions to the liturgy on special Sabbaths and festivals.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’


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