catholic (with lowercase 'c'): from Greek katholikos, from kata (by) + holos (whole). Meaning: comprehensive, universal, all-encompassing, broad in sympathies, tastes, or interests.

There is a decent write-up above about the breakdown of the word catholic. However I was curious about how the word first came into usage as a name for the early Christian church, after hearing a joke from Eddie Izzard. He was talking about the history of religion, and he said, "And then for about 1500 years we had the Catholic church... you know those who follow the teachings of cathol."

Anyway, so after poking around a bit, I found some information on how the word came into usage for the church. According to the Catholic Diocese of Lake Charles, Louisiana, the word was first used by Romans describing the followers of Jesus, because they were "universal" or found though out the entire empire. In addition:

Among members, of course, the word had a much more significant and broader meaning than just geographical consideration. It was understood also to describe the very nature of the Church, in that it was universally for everyone.
Source: Catholic Diocese of Lake Charles, Louisiana
http://lcdiocese.org/resources/viewdifference.asp?differenceID=19

Cath"o*lic (?), a. [L. catholicus, Gr. , universal, general; down, wholly + whole, probably akin to E. solid: cf. F. catholique.]

1.

Universal or general; as, the catholic faith.

Men of other countries [came] to bear their part in so great and catholic a war. Southey.

This epithet, which is applicable to the whole Christian church, or its faith, is claimed by Roman Catholics to belong especially to their church, and in popular usage is so limited.

2.

Not narrow-minded, partial, or bigoted; liberal; as, catholic tastes.

3.

Of or pertaining to, or affecting the Roman Catholics; as, the Catholic emancipation act.

Catholic epistles, the espistles of the apostles which are addressed to all the faithful, and not to a particular church; being those of James, Peter, Jude, and John.

 

© Webster 1913.


Cath"o*lic, n.

1.

A person who accepts the creeds which are received in common by all parts of the orthodox Christian church.

2.

An adherent of the Roman Catholic church; a Roman Catholic.

Old Catholic, the name assumed in 1870 by members of the Roman Catholic church, who denied the ecumenical character of the Vatican Council, and Rejected its decrees, esp. that concerning the infallibility of the pope, as contrary to the ancient Catholic faith.

 

© Webster 1913.

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