breth·​ren | \ ˈbret͟h-rən How to pronounce brethren (audio) ; ˈbre-t͟hə-, -t͟hərn \

Definition of brethren

 (Entry 1 of 2)

plural of brother

used chiefly in formal or solemn address or in referring to the members of a profession, society, or religious denomination our church brethren


plural noun

Definition of Brethren (Entry 2 of 2)

religion : members of various sects originating chiefly in 18th century German Pietism especially : dunkers

First Known Use of brethren

14th century, in the meaning defined above

Plural noun

1797, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about brethren

Time Traveler for brethren

Time Traveler

The first known use of brethren was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Statistics for brethren

Cite this Entry

“Brethren.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Apr. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for brethren


English Language Learners Definition of brethren

used especially to begin to talk in a formal way to a group of people or to refer to the members of a particular group


breth·​ren | \ ˈbret͟h-rən How to pronounce brethren (audio) \

Kids Definition of brethren

plural of brother

Hint: Brethren is used chiefly in formal situations.

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on brethren

Nglish: Translation of brethren for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of brethren for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about brethren

Comments on brethren

What made you want to look up brethren? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

Name that Thing: Flower Edition

Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!