The word was originally used to designate those associations formed in the Roman Catholic Church for the pursuit of special religious and ecclesiastical purposes, such as nursing of the sick, the support of the poor, and the practice of the particular devotions, etc. They do not date earlier than the thirteenth century. The name was subsequently applied to secular associations, such as the Freemasons. The word is only a Latin form of the Anglo-Saxon Brotherhood.

This page is adapted from the Glossary at Phoenixmasonry — Used with permission.

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