American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
- n. A Protestant woman who assists the minister in various functions.
- n. Used as a title prefixed to the surname of such a woman: Deaconess Brown.
Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n. One of an ecclesiastical order of women in the early church, who discharged for members of their own sex those parts of the diaconal office which could not conveniently or fitly be performed by men. They acted as doorkeepers and kept order on the women's side of the congregation, assisted at the baptism of women and administered the unction before baptism except the anointing of the forehead, instructed female catechumens, took charge of sick and poor women, and were present at interviews of the clergy with women. Such an order was especially needed in those Christian countries where Oriental seclusion of women prevailed. Deaconesses were required to remain unmarried, and were generally selected from the consecrated virgins or from the order of widows. In the Eastern Church the order continued into the middle ages, but it is not certain when it became extinct. In the Western Church it was abolished by successive decrees of councils during the fifth and succeeding centuries, and became finally extinct about the tenth. Abbesses were sometimes called deaconesses after the order became obsolete.
- n. A member of an order of women more or less fully established in recent times in several Protestant churches, with duties similar to the preceding; also, a member of the Institution of Deaconesses first established by Pastor Fliedner, of the United Evangelical Church of Prussia, at Kaiserswerth in 1836. The latter are wholly devoted, by engagements for fixed periods, to charitable work, as the nursing of the sick, etc. They reside in special houses, which have been established in many parts of the world.
GNU Webster's 1913
- n. (Primitive Ch.) One of an order of women whose duties resembled those of deacons.
- n. (Ch. of Eng. and Prot. Epis. Ch.) A woman set apart for church work by a bishop.
- n. A woman chosen as a helper in church work, as among the Congregationalists.
- n. a woman deacon
- deacon + -ess (Wiktionary)
“A deaconess is a member of a deaconess institution, actively engaged in charitable deeds, but, like the deaconess on the Continent, she can sever her connection with it when adequate cause presents itself, and return to her family and friends.”
“Mission, is in all respects a synonym for "deaconess," as the name is understood in the large deaconess establishment at Mildmay.”
“In the case of Phoebe, they usually translate it "deaconess".”
“Despite the lack of clarity on the term and its origin, it is clear that, by the 4th century, there were women in the Church exercising definite functions and styled with the term "deaconess".”
“Is it not hurtful that the apostle Junia was renamed Junias and called a man to suit the male translators and that Phoebe was not called a minister as the Greek implies but a "deaconess" instead?”
“The very interesting article from which the quotation has just been made seems to think the term "deaconess" a misnomer for the Kaiserswerth deaconess, as she belongs to a community, whereas the deaconess of the early Church was attached to a congregation and belonged to a single church as an officer; but it may well be questioned whether the class of duties assigned to the deaconess of the early Church and of modern times alike, that is, the nursing of the sick, the care of the infirm in body and mind, the succoring of the unfortunate, and the education of children, are not the main characteristics of the office of a deaconess, while the fact of her connection with a number of like-minded women in community life is merely an external feature of the office as it has developed in the nineteenth century.”
“deaconess" of the church which is at Cenchrea -- The word is "Cenchreae," the eastern part of Corinth (Ac 18: 18).”
“I was a deaconess in my church for goodness sakes!”
“He summarized the state of deaconess issue as follows: The possibility of ordaining women to the diaconate is still an unsettled question in the Catholic Church.”
“That it was not was demonstrated by no less an authority than the minister at the Congregational church where I was a deaconess.”
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