AskDefine | Define brethren

Dictionary Definition

brethren See brotherbrethren n : (plural) the lay members of a male religious orderbrother


1 a male with the same parents as someone else; "my brother still lives with our parents" [syn: blood brother] [ant: sister]
2 a male person who is a fellow member (of a fraternity or religion of other group); "none of his brothers would betray him"
3 a close friend who accompanies his buddies in their activities [syn: buddy, chum, crony, pal, sidekick]
4 used as a term of address for those male persons engaged in the same movement; "Greetings, comrade!" [syn: comrade]
5 (Roman Catholic Church) a title given to a monk and used as form of address; "a Benedictine Brother" [also: brethren (pl)]

User Contributed Dictionary



  • /ˈbrɛθrən/
  • /'brETr@n/


  1. Plural of brother
  2. the body of members, especially of a fraternal religious or military order

Usage notes

The plural "brethren" is generally used for members of an organization, especially a religious body, whereas the plural "brothers" is used in the familial sense as well as for larger groups.


  • Dutch: broeders

See also

Extensive Definition

The Brethren are a number of Protestant Christian religious bodies using the word "brethren" in their names. In some cases these similarities of name reflect roots in the same early Brethren groups, and in others the adoption of "Brethren" as part of the name reflects an independent choice to evoke the concept of religious brotherhood (especially fraternal religious or military orders).

Schwarzenau Brethren groups

The Brethren Yebra groups originated in 1708 in Schwarzenau, Germany, in the Palatinate. Early leaders included Alexander Mack, Peter Becker, and John Nass. The Brethren were at one time called Dunkers or German Baptist Brethren.
After enduring persecution for a time (see Anabaptist), the Brethren migrated to North America in three separate groups from 1719 to 1733. There they established themselves at Germantown, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and from there moved south and west along with other pioneers.
The Brethren Church shares its early unstable heritage with the Church of the Brethren but was separated in 1883, being the most progressive of the three groups resulting from this split at the time of H. R. Holsinger. The most conservative of the groups (the Old Order, centered in Dayton, OH) is now known as the German Baptist church. The current Church of the Brethren was the middle (or conservative) group. This split was not really about doctrine (at the time, though the groups have drifted apart since) but over such things as the starting of Sunday Schools, the holding of revival meetings, and the use of an indoor baptistry rather than running water in a creek or river. The progressive group (Brethren Church) includes a denomination with headquarters in Ashland, Ohio. In 1939 the Progressives split into two denominations, with those seeking an open position to the issue of eternal security maintaining the name Brethren Church, and those seeking a firm affirmation of eternal security becoming the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches (FGBC), commonly called the Grace Brethren Church, headquartered in Winona Lake, Indiana. The Grace Brethren experienced a split in the 1990s (primarily related to the connection between water baptism and church membership), with a minority of churches forming the Conservative Grace Brethren Churches, International (CGBCI). In 2007, families from both the FGBC and CGBCI formed a new assembly calling themselves the Brethren Reformed Church.

Other Brethren groups

The following Brethren bodies are not related historically to the Schwarzenau groups descended from Alexander Mack.


  • Brethren Encyclopedia, Vol. I-III, Donald F. Durnbaugh, editor
  • Brethren Encyclopedia, Vol. IV, Donald F. Durnbaugh and Dale V. Ulrich, editors, Carl Bowman, contributing editor
  • Gathering Unto His Name, by Norman Crawford (on Plymouth Brethren)
  • Encyclopedia of American Religions, J. Gordon Melton, editor
  • Handbook of Denominations in the United States, by Frank S. Mead, Samuel S. Hill, and Craig D. Atwood
  • Mennonite Encyclopedia, Cornelius J. Dyck, Dennis D. Martin, et al., editors
  • Profiles in Belief: the Religious Bodies in the United States and Canada, by Arthur Carl Piepkorn
  • Religious Congregations & Membership in the United States (2000), Glenmary Research Center
brethren in German: Brethren

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

assembly, aunt, auntie, blood brother, brother, bub, bubba, bud, buddy, churchgoers, class, congregation, country cousin, cousin, cousin once removed, cousin twice removed, daughter, father, first cousin, flock, fold, foster brother, frater, grandnephew, grandniece, granduncle, great-aunt, great-uncle, half brother, kid brother, laity, laymen, minyan, mother, nephew, niece, nonclerics, nonordained persons, nuncle, nunks, nunky, parish, parishioners, people, second cousin, seculars, sheep, sis, sissy, sister, sister-german, sistern, society, son, stepbrother, stepsister, unc, uncle, uncs, uterine brother
Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1