In our church, we refer to one anoth­er as broth­er and sis­ter. Some­times, when refer­ring to mul­ti­ple peo­ple, we use the phrase brethren and sis­ters. Yes­ter­day, some­one said brethren and sistren then apol­o­gized for using a made up word.

It was a per­fect oppor­tu­ni­ty for me to edu­cate every­one and put his mind at ease. :)

Sev­er­al cen­turies agobrethren and sistren were the plur­al forms for broth­er and sis­ter, respec­tive­ly. After about 300 years of usage, brethren grew out favour and the sim­pler broth­ers took its place. Today, brethren is used pri­mar­i­ly in reli­gious con­texts.

Sistren, on the oth­er hand, fell out of usage com­plete­ly by the mid-16th cen­tu­ry, being replaced entire­ly with sis­ters. I sup­pose one could make the argu­ment that since it hasn’t be used for near­ly 500 years, it very well could be referred to as “not a real word”. I’m in the if-it-was-ever-a-real-word-it-still-is camp.

Inter­est­ing­ly enough, some fem­i­nist cir­cles are try­ing to res­ur­rect sistren, but they’ve had lit­tle suc­cess.

About Kim Siever

I am a copy­writer and copy­ed­i­tor. I blog on writ­ing tips most­ly, but I some­times throw in my thoughts about run­ning a small busi­ness.

Fol­low me on Twit­ter at @hotpepper.

Free monthlywriting &social media tips!

Free monthlywriting &social media tips!

Sign up to receive monthly writing and social media tips.

Thanks for signing up for our monthly writing tips!

Pin It on Pinterest