AskDefine | Define cleric

Dictionary Definition

cleric n : a clergyman or other person in religious orders [syn: churchman, divine, ecclesiastic]

User Contributed Dictionary



From clēricus < (klērikos) < (klēros) "a casting lots, drawing lots", (Eur.; many officers at Athens obtained their offices by lot, as opp. to election [Liddell and Scott])



  1. A clergy member

Related terms


clergy member
  • Finnish: pappi
  • Polish: duchowny

Extensive Definition

A cleric (Ancient Greek κληρικός - klērikos) or clergyman (pl. clergymen) is a member of the clergy of a religion, especially one who is a priest, preacher, or other religious professional. It is often used to refer to the religious leadership in Islam, where the term "priest" is not accurate and where terms such as "Alim" are not widely understood in the English-speaking world.
Within Christianity, especially in Eastern Christianity and Roman Catholicism, the term cleric refers to any individual who has received the clerical tonsure, including deacons, priests, and bishops. In Roman Catholicism, the tonsure was a prerequisite for receiving any of the minor orders or major orders before the minor orders and the subdiaconate were abolished following the Second Vatican Council. Thusly, those individuals who have received the tonsure, but are not deacons, priests, or bishops, are properly referred to as clerics. Minor Orders are still given in the Eastern Catholic Churches, and 'cleric' is the normal title given to seminarians and those with minor orders.
The term "clerk" derives from "cleric," since in medieval times the clergy were one of the few groups who could read, and therefore were often employed to do bookkeeping and similar work. The term "clerical work" continues to this day to refer to such functions.


cleric in Czech: Duchovní
cleric in Spanish: Clérigo
cleric in Italian: Chierico
cleric in Portuguese: Clérigo

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

DD, Doctor of Divinity, Holy Joe, abbe, chaplain, churchman, clergyman, clerical, clerk, curate, cure, divine, ecclesiastic, man of God, military chaplain, minister, padre, parson, pastor, preacher, rector, reverend, servant of God, shepherd, sky pilot, supply clergy, supply minister, the Reverend, the very Reverend, tonsured cleric
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