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Wildly off-topic re "Brethren and Sistren": Is 'Sistren' a proper word?

by andye (Curate)
on Nov 10, 2004 at 17:33 UTC ( #406734=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to A Proposal for Additional Levels

Good suggestion Petruchio.

Personally though, I was completely distracted by your opening words (my fault not yours) which prompted me to investigate 'Sistren' a little.

I present here the results of my research (OK, I Googled for it), for the benefit of those brethren with philological interests...

There is a word sistren, though it has a somewhat different history from its male parallel. Both words were used in Middle English (12th to 15th centuries) simply as the plural forms of brother and sister. From about 1600, brothers began to take over from brethren (Shakespeare used both), except in referring to fellow members of a religious community, or a society or profession. Even this use is now rather archaic (though groups such as the Plymouth Brethren keep it in use). Sistren, meanwhile, had fallen completely out of use by the middle of the 16th century, but has been revived (and used almost exclusively) by feminist writers.

From (part of the Oxford English Dictionary), which - I've discovered - also has many other interesting articles. For example, the collective noun for a group of cats is a 'clowder'.

With best wishes,

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Re: Wildly off-topic re "Brethren and Sistren": Is 'Sistren' a proper word?
by serf (Chaplain) on Oct 31, 2005 at 15:10 UTC
    If you go further than AskOxford you'll find that it's used in Jamaican Patois as well and from there there by Rastas & in reggae lyrics too.

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