Today means “abbot,” or the head of a monastery. The is usually chosen by the monks from their own community and approved by the patriarch, metropolitan, or bishop within whose jurisdiction the monastery lies. The hegumenate is the highest rank of the to which priests, married or celibate, serving in cathedrals or large parishes, may be raised. The Arabic equivalent term for is qummus (protopriest).

The term derives from the Greek hegoumenos, whose primary meaning was “ruler,” well known in pagan Greek and also used by authors to denote a bishop. In late Greek texts from and in Coptic texts, this title referred to clerics and monks and was given to whoever played the role in the group. Hence, actually corresponded to archipresbyteros, a term rarely used in Egypt, or to the even rarer protopresbyteros. The Hegumen is in charge of several priests.

In the Monachorum in Aegypto some monks are described as “fathers of many monasteries,” although here “monastery” has a different meaning from the one given to it later on. However, Palladius, who was in at the same time as the author of the monachorum at the end of the fourth century, used with the technical meaning that was to become usual later on.