Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Dean (Lat. decanus, from decem, ten), originally the head of a body of ten. Thus in early England the tithings, or subdivisions of the hundred for the administration of justice, had each its dean. Similarly the bishops divided their dioceses into groups of ten parishes, over each of which there was a dean (called in the towns, dean of the town, and in the country, rural deans). Again, in monasteries and collegiate and cathedral foundations, deans were appointed to see after the internal discipline. At present the colleges at Oxford and Cambridge each possess one (or sometimes two) officers charged especially with the maintenance of discipline, who in most cases are termed deans. Probably because their functions are supposed to give them special knowledge of the character of the undergraduates, they are charged with the ceremonial duty of presenting them for degrees. The dean of a cathedral chapter acts as its chairman, and exercises a general supervision over the corporate property and the fabric and services of the cathedral. The office now is usually supposed to be one of learned leisure, specially fitted for those clergy who have gained distinction as scholars. Rural deans, in the absence of the bishop, induct the clergy who have been instituted to livings, and report to the Archdeacon on the state of churches and churchyards. The Dean of Battle Abbey (in Sussex) has no chapter, but has an ecclesiastical court and is exempt from the jurisdiction of the bishop of his diocese. Guernsey and Jersey (doubtless from their insular position) possess Anglican deans (who are also rectors of parishes) with some judicial power and special disciplinary functions. Among ecclesiastical deans with judicial power only, the Dean of Arches (whose office is now absorbed in another) was the most important. The term dean is also sometimes applied to the senior member of a body, e.g. the Deans of the Faculties in some universities.