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American Dictionary of the English Language

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Benefice


BEN'EFICE, noun [Latin beneficium.]

1. Literally, a benefit, advantage or kindness. But in present usage, en ecclesiastical living; a church endowed with a revenue, for the maintenance of divine service, or the revenue itself. All church preferments are called benefices, except bishoprics, which are called dignities. But ordinarily, the term dignity is applied to bishoprics, deaneries, arch-deaconries, and prebendaries; and benefice to parsonages, vicarages, and donatives.

2. In the middle ages, benefice was used for a fee, or an estate in lands, granted at first for like only, and held ex mero beneficio of the donor. The estate afterwards becoming hereditary, took the appellation of feud, and benefice became appropriated to church livings.