/men"di keuhnt/, adj.
1. begging; practicing begging; living on alms.
2. pertaining to or characteristic of a beggar.
3. a person who lives by begging; beggar.
4. a member of any of several orders of friars that originally forbade ownership of property, subsisting mostly on alms.
[1425-75; late ME < L mendicant- (s. of mendicans), prp. of mendicare to beg, equiv. to mendic(us) beggarly, needy + -ant- -ANT]

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      member of any of several Roman Catholic religious orders who assumes a vow of poverty and supports himself or herself by work and charitable contributions. The mendicant orders surviving today are the Dominicans (Dominican), Franciscans (Franciscan), Augustinians (Augustinian Hermits), Carmelites, Trinitarians, Mercedarians, Servites, Minims, Hospitalers of St. John of God, and the Teutonic Order.

      The two great founders of the orders of mendicant friars were St. Dominic (Dominic, Saint), who founded the Dominican order in 1216, and St. Francis of Assisi (Francis of Assisi, Saint), who founded the Franciscan order in 1210. Within a generation of their deaths, their institutes had spread throughout Europe and into Asia, and their friars could be numbered by tens of thousands. In all the great cities of western Europe, friaries were established, and in the universities theological chairs were held by Dominicans and Franciscans. Later in the 13th century they were joined by the other great mendicant orders of Carmelites, Augustinian Hermits, and Servites.

      The idea of poverty was St. Francis' root idea, and there is little doubt—though it has been disputed—that it was borrowed from him by St. Dominic and the other mendicant founders. St. Francis did not intend that begging and alms should be the normal means of sustenance for his friars; on the contrary, he intended them to live by the work of their hands and to have recourse to begging only when they could not earn their livelihood by work. But as the friars soon came nearly all to be priests devoted to spiritual ministrations and as the communities grew larger, it became increasingly difficult for them to support themselves by personal work; and so begging came to play a greater role than had been contemplated by St. Francis. But his idea certainly was that his friars should not only practice the utmost personal poverty and simplicity but that they should have the minimum of possessions—no lands, no funded property, no fixed sources of income.

      The maintaining of this ideal proved unworkable in practice. In the Dominican order and the others that started as mendicant it has been mitigated or even abrogated. Among the Franciscans it was the occasion of endless strife and was kept alive only by dint of successive reforms and fresh starts, each successful for a time but doomed always, sooner or later, to yield to the inexorable facts. The Capuchins (Capuchin), a Franciscan offshoot, made the most permanently successful effort to maintain St. Francis' ideal; but even among them mitigations have had to be admitted.

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Universalium. 2010.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Mendicant — Men di*cant, a. [L. mendicans, antis, p. pr. of mendicare to beg, fr. mendicus beggar, indigent.] Practicing beggary; begging; living on alms; as, mendicant friars. [1913 Webster] {Mendicant orders} (R. C. Ch.), certain monastic orders which are… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • mendicant — ► ADJECTIVE 1) habitually engaged in begging. 2) (of a religious order) originally dependent on alms. ► NOUN 1) a beggar. 2) a member of a mendicant order. ORIGIN from Latin mendicus beggar …   English terms dictionary

  • mendicant — [men′di kənt] adj. [L mendicans (gen. mendicantis), prp. of mendicare, to beg < mendicus, needy: for base see MENDACIOUS] 1. asking for alms; begging 2. of or characteristic of a beggar 3. designating or of any of various religious orders… …   English World dictionary

  • Mendicant — Men di*cant, n. A beggar; esp., one who makes a business of begging; specifically, a begging friar. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • mendicant — index parasite Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

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  • mendicant — {{11}}mendicant (adj.) late 14c., from L. mendicantem (nom. mendicans) prp. of mendicare to beg, ask alms, from mendicus beggar, originally cripple (connection via cripples who must beg), from menda fault, physical defect (see MENDACIOUS (Cf.… …   Etymology dictionary

  • mendicant — UK [ˈmendɪkənt] / US noun [countable] Word forms mendicant : singular mendicant plural mendicants very formal someone who belongs to a religious group that lives by asking the public for food, money etc Derived word: mendicant UK / US adjective …   English dictionary

  • mendicant — noun Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo French, from Latin mendicant , mendicans, present participle of mendicare to beg, from mendicus beggar more at amend Date: 14th century 1. beggar 1 2. often capitalized a member of a religious order (as… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

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