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minister (n.)

c. 1300, "man consecrated to service in the Christian Church, an ecclesiastic;" also "an agent acting for a superior, one who acts upon the authority of another," from Old French menistre "servant, valet, member of a household staff, administrator, musician, minstrel" (12c.) and directly from Latin minister (genitive ministri) "inferior, servant, priest's assistant" (in Medieval Latin, "priest"), from minus, minor "less," hence "subordinate" (from PIE root *mei- (2) "small") + comparative suffix *-teros. Formed on the model of magister (see master (n.)).

Minister views a man as serving a church; pastor views him as caring for a church as a shepherd cares for sheep; clergyman views him as belonging to a certain class; divine is properly one learned in theology, a theologian; parson, formerly a respectful designation, is now little better than a jocular name for a clergyman; priest regards a man as appointed to offer sacrifice. [Century Dictionary, 1895]

The political sense of "high officer of the state, person appointed by a sovereign or chief magistrate of a country as the responsible head of a department of the government" is attested from 1620s, from notion of "one who renders official service service to the crown." From 1709 as "a diplomatic representative of a country abroad." A minister without portfolio (1841, in a French context) has cabinet status but is not in charge of a specific department.

Origin and meaning of minister

minister (v.)

early 14c., ministren, "to perform religious rites, provide religious services;" mid-14c., "to serve (food or drink);" late 14c. "render service, aid, or medicine; furnish means of relief or remedy" from Old French menistrer "to serve, be of service, administer, attend, wait on," and directly from Latin ministrare "to serve, attend, wait upon," from minister "inferior, servant, priest's assistant" (see minister (n.)). Related: Ministered; ministering.

Origin and meaning of minister

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