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A superioress in a monastic community for women. The term prioress is properly applied only to a superioress in a convent which has the papal approbation and whose members make solemn profession, that is, to convents which belong to an order in the strict sense of the word. In some places, however, it is customary to apply the title of prioress also to a superioress in a convent which has only the episcopal approbation and whose members do not make solemn profession. In general, the office of a prioress in an order for women corresponds to that of the prior in the same order for men. If the prioress is the first superior, her authority over the convent is similar to that of a conventual prior over his priory; if the first superior is an abbess, the office of the prioress is similar to that of a claustral prior in an abbey.
For bibliography see PRIOR.