- an ecclesiastic of a high order, as an archbishop, bishop, etc.; a church dignitary.
c.1200, from M.L. prelatus "clergyman of high rank," from L. prelatus "one preferred," from prælatus, serving as pp. of præferre (see prefer), from præ "before" + latus "borne, carried" (see oblate (n.)).
"Cortés believed that the military conquest of the Alliance had to be accompanied and justified by an equivalent spiritual conquest. The Indians, he said, must be led to salvation. And he asked King Charles V of Spain for some priests to do the job... Cortés did not want 'bishops and pampered prelates,' wrote historian William H. Prescott, 'who too often squandered the substance of the Church in riotous living, but...men of unblemished purity of life, nourished with the learning of the cloister, [who] counted all personal sacrifices as little in the cause to which they were devoted.'"
- Charles Mann, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus