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From Early Modern English brethren ‎(plural of brother), from Middle English brethere, brether + -en ‎(plural ending), alteration, due to Old English brēþer ‎(dative singular), of Old English brōþor, brōþru ‎(brothers, brethren). Compare German Brüder ‎(brothers, brethren). More at brother. The vowel change from o to e is called umlaut.




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

Usage notes[edit]

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.


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See also[edit]