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Alternative formsEdit


From Early Modern English brethren, plural of brother, from Middle English brethren, from Middle English brethere, brether + -en (plural ending). Ultimately from Old English brōþor, brōþru (brothers, brethren), influenced by Old English brēþer, dative singular of brōþor (brother). Equivalent to brother +‎ -en pl. Compare German Brüder (brothers, brethren). More at brother. The vowel change (from o to e) is called in English rephonologization or cheshirization, but is more usual in German where it is called umlaut.


  • IPA(key): /ˈbɹɛðɹən/
  • (file)



  1. (archaic) plural of brother
  2. (figuratively) The body of members, especially of a fraternal, religious or military order.

Usage notesEdit

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.

Derived termsEdit


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.


brethren (comparative more brethren, superlative most brethren)

  1. Of or akin to; related; like
    • 2009, Seth Shostak, Confessions of an Alien Hunter:
      The principle still sounds good, but our astronomical knowledge is limited, and we haven't yet discovered any such brethren solar systems.

See alsoEdit