plural noun

fellow members.
Archaic. brothers.

Synonym study

1, 2. See brother.


[bruhth-er or for 9, bruhth-ur]

noun, plural brothers, (Archaic) brethren.

a male offspring having both parents in common with another offspring; a male sibling.
Also called half brother. a male offspring having only one parent in common with another offspring.
a stepbrother.
a male numbered among the same kinship group, nationality, ethnicity, profession, etc., as another; an associate; a fellow member, fellow countryman, fellow man, etc.: a fraternity brother.
  1. (often initial capital letter)a male numbered among the lay members of a religious organization that has a priesthood.
  2. a man who devotes himself to the duties of a religious order without taking holy orders, or while preparing for holy orders.
brothers, all members of a particular racial or ethnic group, or of the human race in general: All men are brothers.
Slang. fellow; buddy: Brother, can you spare a dime?
Informal. a term used to refer to or address a fellow black man; soul brother.


Slang. (used to express disappointment, disgust, or surprise).

Origin of brother

before 1000; Middle English; Old English brōthor; cognate with Dutch broeder, German Bruder, Old Norse brōthir, Gothic brothar, Sanskrit bhrātṛ, Greek phrā́tēr, Latin frāter, Old Irish bráthair, OCS bratrŭ
Related formsbroth·er·less, adjectivebroth·er·like, adjective

Synonym study

1. Brothers, brethren are plurals of brother. Brothers are kinsmen, sons of the same parents: My mother lives with my brothers. Brethren, now archaic in the foregoing sense, is used of male members of a congregation or of a fraternal organization: The brethren will meet at the church. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for brethren

relative, twin, relation, kin

Examples from the Web for brethren

Contemporary Examples of brethren

Historical Examples of brethren

British Dictionary definitions for brethren


pl n

archaic a plural of brother
fellow members of a religion, sect, society, etc


noun plural brothers or archaic except when referring to fellow members of a religion, sect, society, etc brethren

a male person having the same parents as another person
  1. a male person belonging to the same group, profession, nationality, trade union, etc, as another or others; fellow member
  2. (as modifier)brother workers
comrade; friend: used as a form of address
  1. a member of a male religious order who undertakes work for the order without actually being in holy orders
  2. a lay member of a male religious order
Related adjective: fraternal


slang an exclamation of amazement, disgust, surprise, disappointment, etc

Word Origin for brother

Old English brōthor; related to Old Norse brōthir, Old High German bruoder, Latin frāter, Greek phratēr, Sanskrit bhrātar
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for brethren

alternative plural of brother (q.v.); predominant c.1200-1600s, but surviving now only in religious usage.



Old English broþor, from Proto-Germanic *brothar (cf. Old Norse broðir, Danish broder, Old Frisian brother, Dutch broeder, German Bruder, Gothic bróþar), from PIE root *bhrater (cf. Sanskrit bhrátár-, Old Persian brata, Greek phratér, Latin frater, Old Irish brathir, Welsh brawd, Lithuanian broterelis, Old Prussian brati, Old Church Slavonic bratru, Czech bratr "brother").

A highly stable word across the Indo-European languages. In the few cases where other words provide the sense, it is where the cognate of brother had been applied widely to "member of a fraternity," or where there was need to distinguish "son of the same mother" and "son of the same father." E.g. Greek adelphos, probably originally an adjective with frater and meaning, specifically, "brother of the womb" or "brother by blood;" and Spanish hermano "brother," from Latin germanus "full brother." As a familiar term of address from one man to another, it is attested from 1912 in U.S. slang; the specific use among blacks is recorded from 1973.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper