I'm creating a database that will include many types of people, and am faltering on the best way to classify "clergypeople". I'd prefer not to have separate entries for Deacon, Pastor, Priest, Preacher, Reverend, etc. "Clergyperson" or "Clergy" seems technically ok, but I'm wondering if there's a more mainstream word that's just not coming to mind.

Update: Thanks all for the feedback. The context is pretty simple, more or less just tags that can be associated with an individual, for example:

Architect, Builder, Athlete, Entertainer, Plantation Owner, Artist, etc.

At this point I'm leaning toward "Clergy", but a better synonym (that I don't want to use) would be "leader of church", i.e. I'm more concerned with aggregating the terms I originally listed above than including nuns/monks, etc.

As @Peter Turner pointed out, cleric is really the best fit, but it sounds too medieval for this application.

Thanks for all the input. Ultimately, I think Clergy is going to work, so I'll accept that answer. "Church Leader" is a little more specific than I originally asked for, but I'm going to consider using that as well...

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    Probably better on the English Language site. Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 18:06
  • Ok, thanks for the feedback. I think you're probably right, it would be better on the other site. If a moderator can migrate that would be great. Or I'll just re-ask it. Thank you!
    – mr.adam
    Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 18:37
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    From a Christian perspective, many protestant denominations do not recognise 'clergy' as different from anyone else, and don't like to use the term. Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 18:49
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    There is such a broad diversity on this subject, even among Christians, I doubt an answer will be found that completely satisfies everyone. In my experience, clergy seems to be the generic term with the most common ground.
    – ScotM
    Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 19:31
  • I'm pretty sure this has been hashed over before.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 19:41

6 Answers 6


What's wrong with just "clergy". This is commonly used.

Also, what's the context? For example, if you need to be general because you don't know the particular title in the context of a specific ceremony or event (e.g. a wedding) the commonly used term is "officiant".

  • Note: officiant can only refer to the person if they are performing the ceremony. +1 nonetheless. Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 19:20
  • "Clergy" or "clergymen" would be the best answer here. Alternately, the synonymous phrase "men of the cloth" could be useful.
    – R Mac
    Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 19:38
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    No, but "clergy" refers to a group of clergymen (who run, say, a parish) collectively. "Clergymen" is the technically correct way to refer to a group of individuals which may not be completely representative of the leadership of a particular church. As for the matter of political correctness, if desired, you can adjust to say it as "clergypeople", "people of the cloth", "men and women of the cloth", or any similar variation.
    – R Mac
    Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 19:49
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    Clergypersonnel? Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 19:52
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    What I meant is, I have commonly heard expressions like: Who is the clergy performing your ceremony? Maybe it is a relative neologism, but using 'clergy' as a genderless singular term in place of 'clergyperson', just like 'chair' instead of 'chairperson' is used. Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 20:01

See if "spiritual leader" fits in.


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    This is not a bad idea, but for the region I'm in (rural Louisiana) I think Church Leader would be a better fit.
    – mr.adam
    Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 20:27

I believe the term you're looking for is cleric.

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    I don't think that term is used very commonly in this context. I hear it used for the D&D archetype a lot (I play RPGs), and I hear it used to refer to people who do 'clerical work' a lot (which I think is incorrect, wouldn't clerk be the proper term?), but not to refer to real-life clergy/religious. Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 19:19
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    @the this question was migrated from christiantiy stackexchange, answer made more sense there. But cleric is still a good general term. The term clerk descended from cleric and was pronounced the same "clerk" is the pronounciation. Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 20:01

"Religious Leader" can typically be applied as a tag to any official leader of any group that calls itself a religion and has official leaders. It does seem a little more current and inclusive than "clergy", although either would typically be understood by any American consumers of your data.

Google search on this phrase turns up examples from Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam.

  • Not really appropriate for deacons. Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 19:53
  • Catholicism specifically seems to have made its own, narrower definition of "religious", which is in conflict with the definition used in most other situations. Unless this database is being used in a Catholic context, most people would likely consider a deacon a religious leader, despite the distinction. Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 20:04
  • I was objecting to the 'leader' part, not the 'religious' part. Commented Apr 17, 2015 at 1:59
  • At least in Protestant churches, deacons are basically lay members that have roles that are slightly clergy-like. Same thing with elders. Commented Apr 17, 2015 at 3:37

In the UK, it would probably be "clergy" for the collective noun and "a member of the clergy" for the singular. In the past, it would have been "Clergyman", but I'd not expect to hear that in current usage.


If you are looking for the broad term which includes Nuns and Monks as well as Priests, the word you are looking for is religious. This is derived from Catholic vocational theology. This word is the one I've heard typically used by lay people but because of difficulty in analyzing usage due to the homographic adjective I can't get you a good citation for popularity.

The plural of religious is religious.


"She's a religious"

"Our religious don't get the respect they deserve".

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    Religious or regular in the Catholic context refers to those bound to a rule, i.e. those belonging to religious institute or monastic order. But this excludes clergy who do not observe a rule. Thus, a Jesuit priest and a Dominican nun are religious, but a diocesan priest or deacon in this context is secular.
    – choster
    Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 19:21
  • @choster Right, but that's not how I see people using the term. The term is commonly used to mean basically a slightly broader version of clergy. It's also used not just in a Catholic context. Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 19:27
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    I've never heard "religious" used (as an occupational label) outside a Catholic context - do you have an instance in mind? Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 19:38
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    @thedarkwanderer I would say the term is commonly used to refer to anyone who lives as a faithful believer in the tenets of a religion— including people not of the cloth.
    – choster
    Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 19:57
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    @choster that's as an adjective not a noun, at least as far as I've seen. Commented Apr 17, 2015 at 1:56

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