Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Clerk, like clergy, formerly denoted a learned person of any description, and has been so used in modern times. For instance, Coleridge tells us, with somewhat of tautology, how "the devil quoted Genesis like a very learned clerk." And in legal language a clergyman is styled "a clerk in holy orders," thus implying that the two terms are not synonymous. From denoting the ordained clergy, or those who were connected generally with the service of the church, the word came to be applied to the second of the two, who in the last century and the early part of the present performed the duet which made up the greater part of the services of the English Church, the first of the two being the incumbent. The transition of the meaning of the word from ecclesiastic to the sense of general secretary is natural, and the application of the name to assistants of all kinds has brought it about that the original sense has become almost obsolete. We find allusions to thieves as clerks of St. Nicolas