• Latin: prior, former, elder


A monastic superior. Before the 13th century the superior corresponding to the term prior could be abbot, provost, dean, or one advanced in years, and in this loose sense it occurs in the Rule of Saint Benedict. Later, substituted specifically for provost (praepositus) in the Benedictine and other orders, it came to signify coadjutor to the abbot (prior claustralis), or independent superior of a monastery having no abbot (prior conventualis); and, where a monastic establishment is a dependency of an abbey, the prior is obedientiary (prior obedientiarius, or prior simplex). Some orders (as the Carmelites, the Servites, and the Augustinian Hermits) have three grades of prior, the conventual, the provincial, and the prior general.

Additional Information

MLA Citation

  • “prior”. New Catholic Dictionary. CatholicSaints.Info. 22 September 2013. Web. 17 January 2022. <>