Clergy are formal leaders within established religions. Their roles and functions vary in different religious traditions, but usually involve presiding over specific rituals and teaching their religion's doctrines and practices. Some of the terms used for individual clergy are clergyman, clergywoman, and churchman. Less common terms are churchwoman and clergyperson, while cleric and clerk in holy orders both have a long history but are rarely used.

In Christianity, the specific names and roles of the clergy vary by denomination and there is a wide range of formal and informal clergy positions, including deacons, elders, priests, bishops, preachers, pastors, ministers and the pope.

In Islam, a religious leader is often known formally or informally as an imam, qadi, mufti, mullah, or ayatollah.

In the Jewish tradition, a religious leader is often a rabbi (teacher) or hazzan (cantor).


The word "Cleric" comes from the ecclesiastical Latin Clericus, for those belonging to the priestly class. In turn, the source of the Latin word is from the Ecclesiastical Greek Klerikos (κληρικός), meaning appertaining to an inheritance, in reference to the fact that the Levitical priests of the Old Testament had no inheritance except the Lord.[1] "Clergy" is from two Old French words, clergié and clergie, which refer to those with learning and derive from Medieval Latin clericatus, from Late Latin clericus (the same word from which "cleric" is derived).[2] "Clerk", which used to mean one ordained to the ministry, also derives from clericus. In the Middle Ages, reading and writing were almost exclusively the domain of the priestly class, and this is the reason for the close relationship of these words.[3] Within Christianity, especially in Eastern Christianity and formerly in Western Roman Catholicism, the term cleric refers to any individual who has been ordained, including deacons, priests, and bishops.[4] In Latin Roman Catholicism, the tonsure was a prerequisite for receiving any of the minor orders or major orders before the tonsure, minor orders, and the subdiaconate were abolished following the Second Vatican Council.[5] Now, the clerical state is tied to reception of the diaconate.[6] Minor Orders are still given in the Eastern Catholic Churches, and those who receive those orders are 'minor clerics.'[7]

The use of the word "Cleric" is also appropriate for Eastern Orthodox minor clergy who are tonsured in order not to trivialize orders such as those of Reader in the Eastern Church, or for those who are tonsured yet have no minor or major orders. It is in this sense that the word entered the Arabic language, most commonly in Lebanon from the French, as kleriki (or, alternatively, cleriki) meaning "seminarian." This is all in keeping with Eastern Orthodox concepts of clergy, which still include those who have not yet received, or do not plan to receive, the diaconate.

A priesthood is a body of priests, shamans, or oracles who have special religious authority or function. The term priest is derived from the Greek presbyter (πρεσβύτερος, presbýteros, elder or senior), but is often used in the sense of sacerdos in particular, i.e., for clergy performing ritual within the sphere of the sacred or numinous communicating with the gods on behalf of the community.

Other Languages
العربية: رجل دين
asturianu: Cleru
Bân-lâm-gú: Sèng-chit-chiá
беларуская: Духавенства
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Духавенства
български: Духовенство
català: Clergat
čeština: Duchovenstvo
Deutsch: Klerus
español: Clero
Esperanto: Kleriko
euskara: Klero
français: Clergé
Gàidhlig: Pears-eaglais
galego: Clero
한국어: 성직자
hrvatski: Svećenstvo
Bahasa Indonesia: Rohaniwan
italiano: Clero
עברית: כמורה
Kiswahili: Kleri
Latina: Clerus
latviešu: Garīdzniecība
Lëtzebuergesch: Klerus
Ligure: Cêxîa
magyar: Klérus
македонски: Свештенство
مصرى: اكليروس
Nederlands: Geestelijke
日本語: 聖職者
norsk: Presteskap
norsk nynorsk: Presteskap
occitan: Clergat
português: Clero
română: Cler
русиньскый: Клер
русский: Духовенство
Scots: Clergy
shqip: Kleriku
sicilianu: Cleru
Simple English: Clergy
slovenčina: Duchovenstvo
slovenščina: Klerik
српски / srpski: Клер
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Kler
suomi: Papisto
svenska: Prästerskap
Tagalog: Klero
українська: Духовенство
Tiếng Việt: Giáo sĩ
吴语: 圣职人
粵語: 神職人員
中文: 圣职者