friar [Lat. frater=brother], member of certain Roman Catholic religious orders, notably, the Dominicans, Franciscans, Carmelites, and Augustinians. Although a general form of address in the New Testament, since the 13th cent. it has been used to describe members of orders forbidden to hold property. They are called mendicants because they were expected to work or, as later developed, beg for a living and were not bound to a particular monastery. The Council of Trent loosened the restriction on property ownership. Friars differ from cloistered, contempletive monks by their widespread outside activity and by their highly centralized organization. See monasticism.

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