I was surprised at seeing BrE speakers calling nurses - sister(s), then I came across this E.SE page:

What is the original connection between "nurse" and "sister"?

which got me thinking:

What current secular professions still maintain titles like 'Sister' and 'Brother'?

  • That’s an odd use of now. Do you mean current or new or what? – Arm the good guys in America Sep 21 '17 at 14:28
  • @Clare yes, currently – user3306356 Sep 21 '17 at 19:38
  • Sargent, corporal, private, doctor, professor, counselor. – Hot Licks Sep 22 '17 at 2:57
  • Are you asking if people call out for a person with a profession name, similar to calling out for a nurse by saying 'Sister!' or are you asking if there are other religious labels that are used for calling for people by profession in secular settings? – Mitch Sep 23 '17 at 13:33
  • @Mitch the first one - seeing if ‘Sister’ (and ‘Brother’) are used in other secular professions – user3306356 Sep 23 '17 at 17:48

Clerk is the only other example I can think of, though there's more distance in both time and mutation of meaning than with Sister.

The religious sense of clerk is the original, and the other sense derived from those as originally account-keeping and secretarial work would be done largely by people who were clerks in that sense, and the term remained when they became lay professions and was then applied to yet further roles.

  • Can you elaborate on this religious sense of 'clerk'? I had no idea that it was ever so connected. – Mitch Sep 22 '17 at 0:27
  • @Mitch en.wiktionary.org/wiki/clerk#Noun gives the first definition as "a cleric or clergyman". For how the path of the word happened, its notable that while used for anyone of the 8 orders, but sometimes excluding bishops and above, it was also sometimes only of the minor orders like acolyte and lector (just which orders are which and which are in use at all had a few changes over history). Such people would often do jobs for the Church or even the state that would now still be called clerical work when done by laity for businesses, etc. – Jon Hanna Sep 22 '17 at 10:09
  • Jon, this must be a UK/US difference. Wiktionary (though questionable) modifies that first definition as archaic, which I agree with; outside of very religious or historical contexts, there is no intimation of religious connection in the US. Also, the OP is asking if currently and secularly would 'sister' or 'brother' be used with it, and in the US that is certainly not the case for a person called a clerk (a bookkeeper or information processor). – Mitch Sep 22 '17 at 12:57
  • @Mitch the question asked that the secular title be the one that's current, and that's definitely still current in the US ("clerk of court" is certainly a title there), but for the religious use the American Episcopal Church has clerks. – Jon Hanna Sep 22 '17 at 15:14
  • Jon: It's still not clear to me. Do people still address these clerks in the US system (courts and, separately, religious) as 'Sister' or 'Brother'? – Mitch Sep 22 '17 at 16:25

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