Tag Archives: etymology of "church"

The Curious Origin of the Word “Church”

Ask people about the church, and most will tell you where the church is. It’s on the corner of Main and Fourth – as if the church is the building in which a group of people meet.

Some may tell you the denomination of the church. It is a Methodist church, a Presbyterian church, or maybe “a holy roller church.” Don’t bother asking what a holy roller church is. For that matter, asking the difference between the Methodists and the Presbyterians will probably not yield an adequate answer, either.

I once invited a man to visit our church and he immediately replied that he had his own church, which was obviously meant to put me off. It didn’t. I said, “Great! Which church is that?”

He seemed surprised by the question and I could see he was searching his memory for a name. The best he could do was: “Uh, it’s the one on Parkman Road … uh, just before you get to the overpass.”

I said, “You mean the Nazarene Church?”

His eyes lit up, he pointed is finger at me and said, “That’s the one!”

It was like I’d won the prize on “Let’s Make a Deal.”

The word “church” has a complicated history. It is probably derived from Old English “cirice,” which in turn came from the German “kirika,” which likely came from the Greek “kuriake,” which means “of the Lord.” Continue reading

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