Saturday, November 24, 2018

Word of the day: preceptor

The Oxford English Dictionary Word of the Day is preceptor. For me, it’s a madeleine: as a grad student, I taught incoming first-year college students in a summer program whose administrator referred to instructors as preceptors. The OED definitions that could have fit: “probably: an expert in the art of writing or the composition of prose.” That one is marked obsolete. And: “a person who gives instruction; a teacher, a tutor.”

Preceptor comes to English from the classical Latin praeceptor, meaning “teacher, instructor.” Praeceptor comes from praecept, the past participle of praecipere, “to take beforehand, to anticipate, to presuppose, to give instruction, to advise, to order, command.”

As a preceptor, I was precepting all the time. But I never thought of my work in that way, and I don’t think that I ever thought about my title. I probably suspected that someone pulled the word from a thesaurus to avoid the plain teacher. But preceptor does have a history in American higher education.

Preceptor or not, you may subscribe to the OED Word of the Day.

[“I was precepting all the time”: precept really is both a noun and a verb.]

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