A friar is a member of one of the mendicant orders.

Friars and monks

Friars differ from monks in that they are called to a life of poverty in service to a community, rather than cloistered asceticism and devotion. Whereas monks live cloistered away from the world in a self-sufficient community, friars are supported by donations or other charitable support. [ [ Catholic encyclopedia entry for "friar"] ]


The name "Friar" is a corruption of the French word "frère" ("brother" in English), and dates from the 13th century. The French word "frère" in turn comes from the Latin word "frater", which also means "brother".

St. Francis of Assisi called his followers "fratres minores", which G. K. Chesterton translated as "little brothers". However, another interpretation of "fratres minores" is "lesser brothers", because the Franciscan order stressed minority or humility.


There are two classes of orders known as friars, or mendicant orders: the four "great orders" and the so-called "lesser orders".

Four great orders

The four great orders were mentioned by the Second Council of Lyons (1274), and are:

* The Dominicans, founded ca. 1215. The Dominicans are also known as the "Friar Preachers", or the "Black Friars", from the black mantle ("cappa") worn over their white habit. The Dominicans were founded by St. Dominic and received papal approval from Honorius III, in 1216 as the "Ordo Praedicatorum" under the Rule of St. Augustine. They became a mendicant order in 1221.
* The Franciscans, founded in 1209. The Franciscans are also known as the "Friars Minor" or the "Grey Friars". The Franciscans were founded by St. Francis of Assisi and received oral papal approval by Innocent III in 1209 and formal papal confirmation by Honorius III in 1223.
* The Carmelites, founded ca. 1155. [The Carmelite order was founded around 1155 according to many modern historians, but this [ date is often disputed] , and has been disputed since at least the 14th century.] The Carmelites are also known as the "White Friars" because of the white cloak which covers their brown habit. They received papal approval from Honorius III in 1226 and later by Innocent IV in 1247. The Carmelites were founded as a purely contemplative order, but became mendicants in 1245. There are two types of Carmelites, the Calced and Discalced Carmelites.
* The Augustinians, founded in 1255. The Augustinians are also known as the "Hermits of St. Augustine", or the "Austin Friars". Their rule is based on the writings of Augustine of Hippo. The Augustinians were assembled from various groups of hermits as a mendicant order by Alexander IV, from whom they obtained papal approval in 1255.

Lesser orders

The lesser orders are:
* the Minims, established in 1474
* the Conventual Franciscans, [The Conventual Franciscans are a branch of the Franciscan Order] established in 1517
* the Third Order Regular of St. Francis, [The Third Order Regular of St. Francis are a branch of the third order of St. Francis, part of the Franciscan Order.] established in 1521
* the Capuchin, [The Capuchin are a branch of the Franciscan Order.] established in 1525
* the Discalced Carmelites, [The Discalced Carmelites are a branch of the Carmelites.] established in 1568
* the Discalced Trinitarians, established in 1599
* the Order of Penance, [The Order of Penance is known in Italy as the "Scalzetti".] established in 1781

Other name use

Friars have been used as a mascot. Schools using Friars as a mascot include Bishop Lynch High School in Dallas, Texas, Fenwick High School in Oak Park, Illinois, Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island, St. Anthony's High School in Long Island, New York, Malvern Preparatory School in Malvern, Pennsylvania, and Monsignor Bonner High School in Drexel Hill, Pa.


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Friar — • A member of one of the mendicant orders Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Friar     Friar     † …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Friar — Fri ar, n. [OR. frere, F. fr[ e]re brother, friar, fr. L. frater brother. See {Brother}.] 1. (R. C. Ch.) A brother or member of any religious order, but especially of one of the four mendicant orders, viz: {(a) Minors, Gray Friars, or Franciscans …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • friar — late 13c., from O.Fr. frere brother, friar (9c.), originally the mendicant orders (Franciscans, Augustines, Dominicans, Carmelites), who reached England early 13c., from L. frater brother (see BROTHER (Cf. brother)) …   Etymology dictionary

  • friar — friar, monk A friar is a member of a mendicant (i.e. living on alms) or originally mendicant religious order of men, especially the Augustinians, Carmelites, Dominicans, and Franciscans, who live among the people and do good works. A monk can… …   Modern English usage

  • friar — *religious, monk, nun …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • friar — ► NOUN ▪ a member of any of certain religious orders of men, especially the four mendicant orders (Augustinians, Carmelites, Dominicans, and Franciscans). ORIGIN Old French frere, from Latin frater brother …   English terms dictionary

  • friar — [frī′ər] n. [ME frer, frier < OFr frere < L frater, BROTHER] a member of any of various mendicant orders, as a Franciscan or Dominican friarly adj …   English World dictionary

  • friar —    A friar is a monk, and would therefore normally be addressed as ‘brother’, but ‘friar’, used on its own or followed by a name, seems to have been used in former times. Friars were properly members of the mendicant orders of the Roman Catholic… …   A dictionary of epithets and terms of address

  • friar — n 1. mendicant, monk, monastic, almsman, beggar, brother; father, padre, priest; prior, abbot, abbé 2.Franciscan, Gray Friar; Dominican, Black Friar; Carmelite, White Friar; Augustinian, Austin Friar …   A Note on the Style of the synonym finder

  • friar — /fruy euhr/, n. 1. Rom. Cath. Ch. a member of a religious order, esp. the mendicant orders of Franciscans, Dominicans, Carmelites, and Augustinians. 2. Print. a blank or light area on a printed page caused by uneven inking of the plate or type.… …   Universalium

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