cler·​gy | \ˈklər-jē \
plural clergies

Definition of clergy 

1 : a group ordained to perform pastoral or sacerdotal functions in a Christian church Members of the clergy have been invited to participate in an interfaith service.

2 : the official or sacerdotal class of a non-Christian religion Buddhist clergy

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Synonyms & Antonyms for clergy


church, cloth, first estate, ministry, spirituality, spiritualty



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Examples of clergy in a Sentence

Local clergy have been invited to participate in an interfaith service. a member of the clergy

Recent Examples on the Web

The Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, according to the Springfield News-Leader, will also launch its own independent inquiry into the abuse by its clergy. Lukas Mikelionis, Fox News, "Missouri AG launches probe into Catholic Church sexual abuse; archbishop promises 'unfettered' access to records," 24 Aug. 2018 The divergent paths of Ireland and Poland show the bifurcating direction of the Catholic church in Europe, as its clergy on the continent seek to ride turbulent tides of secularism, nationalism, and the shifting focus of the Church itself. Francis X. Rocca, WSJ, "On Abortion Rights, Ireland Has Mirror Image in Conservative Poland," 28 May 2018 Their rise is the result of a surge of Islamic-study programmes for women initiated—ironically—by the male clergy, many of whom were opposed to education for girls. The Economist, "Saudi women want more sway in religious affairs," 12 July 2018 Gay men and lesbians were widely regarded as sick by the medical establishment, sinners by the clergy and criminals by the law. Robert D. Mcfadden, New York Times, "Dick Leitsch, Whose ‘Sip-In’ Was a Gay Rights Milestone, Dies at 83," 22 June 2018 In Italy, about 40 percent of Catholic parishes are now operated by clergy born outside the country. Jason Horowitz,, "As Ireland joins Europe’s sprint from Catholic fold, Francis looks south," 27 May 2018 Until the late 19th century, popes chose the bishops of central Italy, but almost all other bishops around the world were picked by secular potentates or elected by local clergy. Francis X. Rocca, WSJ, "Even the Pope’s ‘Supreme’ Power Has Its Limits," 29 Apr. 2018 The report was expected to be released last month, but at least two dozen current or former clergy members have asked the court to block its release. Aubrey Nagle,, "Pickleball takes over the Jersey Shore, Pa. Supreme Court donations in question | Morning Newsletter," 12 July 2018 Advocates for victims of abuse said that the edict had shielded clergy members from prosecution and contributed to cover-ups. Sam Roberts, New York Times, "Kathy Shaw, Watchdog on Clergy Sexual Abuse, Dies at 72," 26 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'clergy.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of clergy

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for clergy

Middle English clergie, from Anglo-French, from clerc clergyman

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Statistics for clergy

Last Updated

26 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for clergy

The first known use of clergy was in the 13th century

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English Language Learners Definition of clergy

: people (such as priests) who are the leaders of a religion and who perform religious services


cler·​gy | \ˈklər-jē \
plural clergies

Kids Definition of clergy

: the group of religious officials (as priests, ministers, and rabbis) specially prepared and authorized to lead religious services

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Comments on clergy

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


to move with a clumsy heavy tread

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