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Man of the cloth

Posted by ESC on August 23, 2000

In Reply to: Man of the cloth posted by ESC on August 22, 2000

: : Friends,

: : I am looking for the origin of the phrase "man of the cloth" used with regard to clergy.

: : Thanks!

: I couldn't find this in the archives or in my notes. But I recall finding the origin of this phrase in a reference book. When I figure out where I read this, I'll post the exact reference.
: Anyway, from memory: At one point, any man wearing the "uniform" of his profession (for example, a baker wearing an apron and chef's hat) was called a "man of the cloth." Eventually, this term only came to mean a member of the clergy.

MAN OF THE CLOTH - ".was originally a term applied to anyone who wore a uniform or livery in his work. A baker's white jacket and trousers would be called the 'baker's cloth.' But by the seventeenth century, 'man of the cloth' came to be restricted to the clergy and the expression 'the cloth' meant clergymen collectively." From "Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins" by William and Mary Morris (HarperCollins, New York, 1977, 1988).