Abbé

A French word meaning primarily and strictly an abbot or superior of a monastery of men. It came eventually to be applied, in France, to every man who wears the dress of a secular ecclesiastic (Littré). This extension of meaning dates from the time of Francis I (1515-47), who, by consent of the Holy See, named secular clerics Abbots in commendam (See ABBOT, under III, Kinds of Abbot). During the following centuries the name was applied to clerics, often not in sacred Orders, engaged as professors or tutors, or in some similar capacity in the houses of the nobility.

JOHN J. A'BECKET
Transcribed by Christine J. Murray

The 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia

Ab"b'é (#), n.[F. abb'e. See Abbot.]

The French word answering to the English abbot, the head of an abbey; but commonly a title of respect given in France to every one vested with the ecclesiastical habit or dress.

⇒ After the 16th century, the name was given, in social parlance, to candidates for some priory or abbey in the gift of the crown. Many of these aspirants became well known in literary and fashionable life. By further extension, the name came to be applied to unbeneficed secular ecclesiastics generally.

Littr'e.

 

© Webster 1913.

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