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See more synonyms for minister on Thesaurus.com
  1. a person authorized to conduct religious worship; member of the clergy; pastor.
  2. a person authorized to administer sacraments, as at Mass.
  3. a person appointed by or under the authority of a sovereign or head of a government to some high office of state, especially to that of head of an administrative department: the minister of finance.
  4. a diplomatic representative accredited by one government to another and ranking next below an ambassador.Compare envoy1(def 1).
  5. a person acting as the agent or instrument of another.
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verb (used with object)
  1. to administer or apply: to minister the last rites.
  2. Archaic. to furnish; supply.
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verb (used without object)
  1. to perform the functions of a religious minister.
  2. to give service, care, or aid; attend, as to wants or necessities.: to minister to the needs of the hungry.
  3. to contribute, as to comfort or happiness.
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Origin of minister

1250–1300; (noun) Middle English ministre, minister (< Old French ministre) < Latin minister servant, equivalent to minis- (variant of minus a lesser amount; akin to minor minor) + -ter noun suffix; replacing Middle English menistre < Old French < Latin, as above; (v.) Middle English ministren < Old French ministrer < Latin ministrāre to act as a servant, attend, derivative of minister
Related formspre·min·is·ter, verb (used without object)sub·min·is·ter, nounun·der·min·is·ter, nounun·min·is·tered, adjective
Can be confusedclergy cleric imam minister pastor priest rabbi


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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for minister

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Historical Examples

British Dictionary definitions for minister


  1. (esp in Presbyterian and some Nonconformist Churches) a member of the clergy
  2. a person appointed to head a government department
  3. any diplomatic agent accredited to a foreign government or head of state
  4. short for minister plenipotentiary or envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiarySee envoy 1 (def. 1)
  5. Also called (in full): minister resident a diplomat ranking after an envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary
  6. a person who attends to the needs of others, esp in religious matters
  7. a person who acts as the agent or servant of a person or thing
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  1. (intr often foll by to) to attend to the needs (of); take care (of)
  2. (tr) archaic to provide; supply
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Derived Formsministership, noun

Word Origin

C13: via Old French from Latin: servant; related to minus less
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 minister


c.1300, "one who acts upon the authority of another," from Old French menistre "servant, valet, member of a household staff, administrator, musician, minstrel" (12c.), from Latin minister (genitive ministri) "inferior, servant, priest's assistant" (in Medieval Latin, "priest"), from minus, minor "less," hence "subordinate," (see minus) + comparative suffix *-teros. Formed on model of magister. Meaning "priest" is attested in English from early 14c. Political sense of "high officer of the state" is attested from 1620s, from notion of "service to the crown."

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early 14c., "to perform religious rites, provide religious services;" mid-14c., "to serve (food or drink);" late 14c. "render service or aid," from Old French menistrer "to serve, be of service, administer, attend, wait on," and directly from Latin ministrare "to serve, attend, wait upon" (see minister (n.)). Related: Ministered; ministering.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

minister in Culture


In many Protestant churches, the presiding clergyman. Ministers preach sermons; conduct services; officiate at baptisms, weddings, and funerals; and generally look after the needs of their congregation. Some Protestant churches refer to their clergy as pastors or preachers rather than ministers.

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A title used in many countries for members of cabinets and similar public officials, who are roughly equivalent to the officials in the United States cabinet. For example, a minister of foreign affairs will have duties similar to those of the secretary of state of the United States.

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The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.