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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Presbyter \Pres"by*ter\, n. [L. an elder, fr. Gr. ?. See Priest.]

  1. An elder in the early Christian church. See 2d Citation under Bishop, n., 1.

  2. (Ch. of Eng. & Prot. Epis. Ch.) One ordained to the second order in the ministry; -- called also priest.

    I rather term the one sort presbyter than priest.

    New presbyter is but old priest writ large.

  3. (Presbyterian Ch.) A member of a presbytery whether lay or clerical.

  4. A Presbyterian. [Obs.]

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

"elder of the Christian church," 1590s, from Late Latin presbyter, used for "a priest" in Jerome and Prudentius, from Greek presbyteros "older," comparative of presbys "old; old man" (see presby-).


n. 1 A priest in various churches. 2 An elder of the Presbyterian church. 3 An elder of the congregation in early Christianity.


n. an elder in the Presbyterian Church


Presbyter (Greek πρεσβύτερος, : "elder" or "priest" in Christian usage) in the New Testament refers to a leader in local Christian congregations, with presbyter being from the Greek "presbyteros" and meaning elder/senior and episkopos meaning overseer, referring exclusively to the office of bishop, but with presbyteros being understood by many as referring to the same person functioning as overseer. In modern Catholic and Orthodox usage, presbyter is distinct from bishop and synonymous with priest. However, in predominant Protestant usage, the term is not seen as referring to a member of a distinctive priesthood called priests, but instead terms such as minister, pastor and elder are used.

Usage examples of "presbyter".

And Barter, the unreasoning instrument of Fate, was not to know that the apprehending of a couple of traitorous Jack Presbyters was of small account to Colonel Penruddock by comparison with the satisfaction of the blood-feud between himself and the House of Lisle.

The presbyters aspired to the episcopal office, which every day became an object more worthy of their ambition.

Patritius, peccator, rustissimus et minimus omnium fidelium, et contemptabilissimus apud plurimos, patrem habui Calphurnium diaconum, filium quondam Potiti, presbyteri, qui fuit vico Bonaven Taberniae, villulam enim prope habuit ubi ego in capturam dedi.

They thought, that had the bigoted religionists been able to get their heavenly charter recognized, the presbyters would soon become more dangerous to the magistrate than had ever been the prelatical clergy.

The Arian presbyter or bishop, who had secreted for his use the testament of the deceased emperor, improved the fortunate occasion which had introduced him to the familiarity of a prince, whose public counsels were always swayed by his domestic favorites.

A length, Attalus and his faithful Leo reached the friendly habitation of a presbyter of Rheims, who recruited their fainting strength with bread and wine, concealed them from the search of their enemy, and safely conducted them beyond the limits of the Austrasian kingdom, to the episcopal palace of Langres.

The same causes which at first had destroyed the equality of the presbyters introduced among the bishops a preeminence of rank, and from thence a superiority of jurisdiction.

Metropolitans and Primates, secretly prepared themselves to usurp over their episcopal brethren the same authority which the bishops had so lately assumed above the college of presbyters.

I am a lowly servingman from Austra, once bound to the service of Margrave Judith but later coming into the service of her magnanimous son, Presbyter Hugh.

Presbyters in red cloaks and clerics garbed in robes of white sang a hymn of praise in strong voices.

A procession worked its way forward through the throng, presbyters cloaked in silken cloaks, clerics swinging thuribles as the smoke of frankincense rose in stinging clouds, giving Liath a headache.

Even in the middle of the night a few servants walked the back corridors, carrying out trash or chamber pots, hauling water for the many presbyters and noble servitors of the skopos who would need to wash in the morning.

Her knees bent as if of their own volition, and in this way she knelt behind a pair of clerics robed in white and cloaked with the scarlet, floor-length capes that in the world below distinguished presbyters in the service of the skopos.

All of the presbyters do, of course, except those who travel as ambassadors.

A servant hurried past toward the hall, carrying a lamp and a basket, and a brace of presbyters hastened from their prayers to the promised joviality of the feast already in progress.