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From Medieval Latin praebendārius, from Late Latin praebenda (literally ‘things to be supplied’; prebend), neuter plural of gerundive of praebeō (supply), from prae- (pre-) + habeō (have, hold).



prebendary (plural prebendaries)

  1. An honorary canon of a cathedral or collegiate church.
    • 1832 May 12, various authors, St Pancras (Old) Church in The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction, Volume 19, Issue 546,
      Among the prebendaries have been men eminent for their learning and piety: as Lancelot Andrews, bishop of Winchester, Dr. Sherlock, Archdeacon Paley, and the Rev. William Beloe, B.D. well known by his translation of Herodotus.
    • 1908, Frederick William Hackwood, The Annals of Willenhall,
      Wolverhampton church, dedicated to St. Mary, was a collegiate establishment, with a dean as president, and a number of prebendaries or canons who were “secular” priests, and not brethren of any of the regular “orders of monks.” [] A prebendary, it may be explained, is one who enjoys a prebend or canonical portion; that is, who receives in right of his place, a share out of the common stock of the church for his maintenance.
    • 1919, Montague Rhodes James, The Residence at Whitminster in A Thin Ghost and Others,
      The great church, the residences of the dean and the two prebendaries, the choir and its appurtenances, were all intact and in working order.


prebendary (not comparable)

  1. Pertaining to the office or person of a prebendary; prebendal.
    • 1992, Will Self, Cock and Bull
      This is at least a third of the way up the career path to being a saint. Conscientious men (and women for that matter) often hear a sort of susurration in their ears when they achieve this prebendary status.
  2. Of or relating to official positions that are profitable for the incumbent, to the allocation of such positions, or to a system in which such allocation is prevalent.
    • 1985, Norman Jacobs, The Korean Road to Modernization and Development,[1] University of Illinois Press, →ISBN, page 224:
      While in the cloth, all clerics, regardless of social origins, were members of privileged class, exempt from corvée and taxes and sharing the government’s prebendary benefices of land and conscript labor.
    • 2007, Alex Dupuy, The Prophet and Power: Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the International Community, and Haiti, Rowman & Littlefield, →ISBN, page 28:
      Following Max Weber, I define the prebendary state as a regime where those who hold state power live off politics. In addition to their salaries, the rulers and officials of the state benefit from the perquisites of office, either in the form of bribes or outright appropriation of public monies from the various government agencies and state enterprises for private ends (Weber 1968, 86-95, 206-9). [] Under a prebendary regime, a fraction of the middle or dominant class controls the state by allying itself with a supreme ruler or dictator.
    • 2009, Fred W. Riggs, “Bureaucratic Links between Administration and Politics” and “Bureaucracy: A Profound Puzzle for Presidentialism”, chapters 5 and 9 of Ali Farazmand (editor), Bureaucracy and Administration, CRC Press, →ISBN, pages 89–90:
      In the contemporary world prebendary income for officials can be found in all third world countries where public revenues are inadequate to cover salaries at a sufficiently high level to enable bureaucrats to sustain what they regard as a proper standard of living. [] However, in societies where traditional bureaucratic practices are well remembered, and where a “formalistic” dichotomy between what is officially prescribed and what is actually practiced prevails, it is scarcely surprising if the real (prebendary) income of many, if not most public officials, should far exceed their formally prescribed salary levels.