Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Legal, Wikipedia.




(both: prē`fĕkt), in ancient Rome, various military and civil officers. Under the empire some prefects were very important. The Praetorian prefects (first appointed 2 B.C.) usually numbered two; they commanded the powerful PraetoriansPraetorians
, bodyguard of the ancient Roman emperors. Growing out of an early troop that served as bodyguard to the general commanding in Rome, they were formally organized in the time of Augustus.
..... Click the link for more information.
. From the 2d cent. A.D. they had juridical functions, and important legists (e.g., Papinian and Ulpian) held the post. The prefect of the city was at first a deputy for absent consuls; the office fell out of use but was revived by Julius Caesar. Under the empire this prefect had power over the summary court for the region within 100 mi (160 km) of Rome. The prefect of the watch had charge of the fire brigade set up by Augustus. Augustus also established a prefect of the grain supply. There were other officers called prefects, such as the Roman viceroy of Egypt and many other officials of Italian cities.


See L. L. Howe, The Praetorian Prefect from Commodus to Diocletian (1942).



(1) In ancient Rome, an official who was in charge of a prefecture. From the time of Augustus at the end of the first century B.C., prefects were appointed as governors, first of Egypt and later of other provinces. During the imperial period, the term prefect was applied to the chiefs of various administrative departments. In the republican period, prefects with exclusively juridical functions (praefecti iuri dicundo) assisted the praetors in judging lawsuits in the cities of Italy, and under the empire, in the provinces also.

(2) In France, an official in charge of a department as a representative of the central government. Prefects are appointed by the president of France and are considered the heads of all state institutions within the given department. A prefect exercises broad powers; in particular, he has the right to protest individual acts of the local bodies of self-government and to abrogate resolutions of the department council. In Paris the administrative authority is divided between two prefects—the prefect of the department of the Seine and the prefect of police.


1. (in France, Italy, etc.) the chief administrative officer in a department
2. (in France, etc.) the head of a police force
3. Brit a schoolchild appointed to a position of limited power over his fellows
4. (in ancient Rome) any of several magistrates or military commanders
5. RC Church an official having jurisdiction over a missionary district that has no ordinary
6. RC Church one of two senior masters in a Jesuit school or college (the prefect of studies and the prefect of discipline or first prefect)
7. RC Church a cardinal in charge of a congregation of the Curia
References in periodicals archive ?
The management, the students said, had directed the prefects to be strict instead of confronting the issues.
He is the sixth prefect of the doctrinal office since the end of the Second Vatican Council in 1965.
The prefect received the Kuwaiti diplomat as Italy honors its fallen military personnel and civilians killed in the line of duty and while on international peace missions.
We keep a close watch for such activities, listen to both sides, ask them to own up to their mistakes and make sure they don't repeat them," said Oriana Benefazio, another Year 6 prefect.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr Kumar urged students to imbibe the qualities of secularism, integrity and values and urged council members and prefects to adapt to modern times.
has already committed to taking the Toekini for its January reset, says PreFect vice president of sales John Vayianos.
Susan continues to be the most popular prefect in the academy, which is an astonishing achievement for someone given to closing old people's homes and day centres.
Bashair al Hinai, a prefect at the school and one of the event organisers, said, A"We wanted to challenge ourselves and give ourselves the opportunity to enhance our networking, organisational and communication skills.
London, June 16 (ANI): French President Nicolas Sarkozy reportedly signed an order to remove the prefect of the region where Carla Bruni's parents own a chateau, after he failed to end a long-running dispute over a septic tank.
In the management of hundreds of civil detainees, the prefect of the Finistere delegated a large part of the administrative tasks to the underprefects of Brest and Morlaix.
The Auvergne region, whose regional Council also currently manages funds, will be placed on the same footing as other regions for the period 2007-2013: the managing authority will be the region's Prefect.
Knox's original concept is intriguing and thought provoking, a prefect blend of fantasy and suspense.