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Pretorius is a common Afrikaans surname. The family has both Dutch and Indian ancestry: two East Indian slave women, Catharina van Bengale, and Helena van Malabar are ancestors.
Recorded in several forms (including Praetor, Praetorius, Pratorius, Pretorius, (German), and in English Preater, Preter and Pretor), Pretorius is a surname of Germanic origins although the ultimate origin is the Roman (Latin) word "praetor". This literally meant leader, but was used in Imperial Rome to describe officials who lead processions, as well as the Praetorian Guard who provided the security for the Senate and the Imperial Roman Family. Although apparently first recorded in England several centuries before Germany, which is probably because of lost medieval records, it is rare in England, although now found in some numbers in Austria, Switzerland and South Africa.