Definition of presbyter in English:


Pronunciation /ˈprezbədər//ˈpresbədər/


  • 1An elder or minister of the Christian Church.

    • ‘Early in 391, on a visit to the port of Hippo Regius 45 miles from Thagaste, he was forcibly ordained presbyter for the small Catholic congregation.’
    • ‘Here is (in New Testament terms) the most senior presbyter in the whole Anglican church, and he will be busy raising uncomfortable questions about the teaching of the Word of God.’
    minister, rector, priest, parson, minister of religion, clergyman, clergywoman, cleric, churchman, churchwoman, ecclesiastic, pastor, father, man of the cloth, woman of the cloth, man of god, woman of god, curate, chaplain, curé, presbyter, preacher, lay preacher, evangelist, divine
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1formal (in Presbyterian churches) an elder.
      • ‘The elder presbyter was foremost responsible for these unofficial youth gatherings.’
      • ‘The presbyter, a member of the ‘priesthood in the presbyteral order,’ is teacher, priest and shepherd, leads and unifies the faithful, and shares in the priesthood of bishops.’
      • ‘It is precisely as the ‘servant-leader’ of the gathered community that the presbyter rightly presides at its Eucharistic celebration.’
      • ‘In the hazy earliest days of Christianity, the Pope was the elder or presbyter chosen by the people of Rome, and later by the city's clergy.’
      • ‘It tells us that heaven's worship features white robed presbyters, choral and instrumental music, and incense.’
      • ‘Already in 1950, the Elder Presbyter Johannes Lipstok in his letter to the Commissioner of the Religious Affairs asked permission to organize a brief theological course for presbyters.’
      • ‘The care of souls instead was the task of the presbyter (priest, ‘elder’) who was also responsible for the day-to-day administration of the sacraments.’
      • ‘Here is how the Roman presbyter Hippolytus describes the questions they were asked.’
      • ‘The Puritan-founded Massachusetts colonies opposed presbyters almost as much as the pope.’
      • ‘The commissioner gave permission for organizing presbyters ' meetings or for reproducing scarce printed materials.’
      • ‘Although we may not realize it, elders, or presbyters, were some of the most important figures in the early church.’
    2. 1.2formal (in Episcopal churches) a minister of the second order, under the authority of a bishop; a priest.
      • ‘The relatively recent controversial permissions to remarry the divorced and make women presbyters arguably had biblical warrant, though minorities disputed this.’
      • ‘I have yet to meet a Canadian presbyter or bishop who will even broker the point, let alone agree to one atom of it.’
      • ‘The deacon is defined in relation to bishops and presbyters, helping as a minister of word, liturgy, and charity.’
      • ‘We see, in both passages in which the qualifications of a bishop or presbyter are listed, that the candidate must be ‘the husband of one wife.’’


Late 16th century: via ecclesiastical Latin from Greek presbuteros elder (used in the New Testament to denote an elder of the early church), comparative of presbus old (man).