Etymology
Advertisement
clerical (adj.)

1590s, "pertaining to the clergy," from cleric + -al (1), or from French clérical, from Old French clerigal "learned," from Latin clericalis, from clericus (see cleric). Meaning "pertaining to clerks and copyists" is from 1798.

Clericalism "sacerdotalism, power or influence of the clergy" is from 1849. Clericality "quality of being clerical" is from 1650s.

Related entries & more 
Advertisement
clergy (n.)

c. 1200, clergie "office or dignity of a clergyman," from two Old French words: 1. clergié "clerics, learned men," from Medieval Latin clericatus, from Late Latin clericus (see clerk (n.)); 2. clergie "learning, knowledge, erudition," from clerc, also from Late Latin clericus.

Meaning "persons ordained for religious work, persons consecrated to the duties of public ministration in the Christian church" is from c. 1300. Benefit of clergy (1510s) is the exemption of ecclesiastics from certain criminal processes before secular judges; in England it was first recognized 1274, modified over time, and abolished in 1827.

The ability to read, being originally merely the test of the 'clergy', or clerical position, of the accused, came at length to be in itself the ground of the privilege, so that the phrase became = 'benefit of scholarship' [OED]
Related entries & more 
neck-verse (n.)

some printed Latin text (usually Psalms li.1) "set by the ordinary of a prison before a malefactor claiming benefit of clergy, in order to test his ability to read. If the ordinary or his deputy said legit ut clericus (he reads like a clerk or scholar), the malefactor was burned in the hand and set free, thus saving his neck" [Century Dictionary]. See neck (n.) + verse (n.).

Related entries & more 
cleric (n.)

"a clergyman," 1620s (also in early use as an adjective), from Church Latin clericus "clergyman, priest," noun use of adjective meaning "priestly, belonging to the clerus;" from Ecclesiastical Greek klērikos "pertaining to an inheritance," but in Greek Christian jargon by 2c., "of the clergy, belonging to the clergy," as opposed to the laity; from klēros "a lot, allotment; piece of land; heritage, inheritance," originally "a shard or wood chip used in casting lots," related to klan "to break" (see clastic).

Klēros was used by early Greek Christians for matters relating to ministry, based on Deuteronomy xviii.2 reference to Levites as temple assistants: "Therefore shall they have no inheritance among their brethren: the Lord is their inheritance" (klēros being used as a translation of Hebrew nahalah "inheritance, lot"). Or else it is from the use of the word in Acts i:17. A word taken up in English after clerk (n.) shifted to its modern meaning.

Related entries & more 
clerisy (n.)

1818, on model of German clerisei, from Late Latin clericia, related to clericus (see cleric); apparently coined by Coleridge, who used it to mean "the learned men of a nation, its poets, philosophers, and scholars," "to express a notion no longer associated with CLERGY" [OED]. But since the 1840s it has since sometimes been used in the sense "the clergy," as distinguished from the laity.

The clerisy of the nation (a far apter exponent of the thing meant, than the term which the usus et norma loquendi forces on me), the clerisy, I say, or national church, in its primary acceptation and original intention comprehended the learned of all denominations;—the sages and professors of law and jurisprudence; of medicine and physiology; of music; of military and civil architec[t]ure; of the physical sciences; with the mathematical as the common organ of the preceding; in short, all the so called liberal arts and sciences, the possession and application of which constitute the civilization of a country, as well as the Theological. [Coleridge, "On the Constitution of the Church and State," 1830]
Related entries & more 
Advertisement
clerk (n.)

c. 1200, "man ordained in the ministry, a priest, an ecclesiastic," from Old English cleric and Old French clerc "clergyman, priest; scholar, student," both from Church Latin clericus "a priest," noun use of adjective meaning "priestly, belonging to the clerus" (see cleric).

Modern bureaucratic usage is a reminder of the time when clergy alone could read and write and were employed as scribes and account-keepers by secular authorities. In late Old English the word also can mean "king's scribe; keeper of accounts." And by c. 1200 clerk took on a secondary sense in Middle English (as the cognate word did in Old French) of "man of letters, anyone who can read or write."

This led to the senses "assistant in a public or private business" (c. 1500), originally a keeper of accounts, also "officer of a court, municipality, etc. whose duty it is to keep its records and perform its routine business" (1520s), and later, especially in American English, "a retail salesman" (1790). Meaning "an employee who registers guests in a hotel" is by 1879.

Related entries & more