early 14c., from Old French deien (12c., Modern French doyen), from Late Latin decanus "head of a group of 10 monks in a monastery," from earlier secular meaning "commander of 10 soldiers" (which was extended to civil administrators in the late empire), from Greek dekanos, from deka "ten" (from PIE root *dekm- "ten"). Replaced Old English teoðingealdor. College sense is from 1570s (in Latin from late 13c.).
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