Definition of precentor in English:



  • 1A person who leads a congregation in its singing or (in a synagogue) prayers.

    • ‘He explains that his wife's grandfather was a Gaelic precentor who led the singing of the psalms in Skye.’
    • ‘Synagogues began… to appoint official precentors, part of whose duty it was to compose poetical additions to the liturgy on special Sabbaths and festivals.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘If so, how are they different from a precentor standing out from his choir?’
    1. 1.1A minor canon who administers the musical life of a cathedral.
      • ‘Exeter's was built in 1286 by the cathedral dean as an act of amends for his alleged involvement in the murder of his deputy, the cathedral precentor three years earlier.’
      • ‘For instance, Linacre, the personal physician of Henry VIII, had the been rector of four parishes, a canon at three cathedrals and precentor at York Minster.’
      • ‘In the English dissenting churches and the Presbyterian churches of Scotland, which until the later 19th century had no organs, the precentor was an important official.’
      • ‘The post-Reformation choir was usually split into two antiphonal groups: cantoris on the precentor's side and decani opposite on the dean's side.’


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