FATHER, the begetter of a child, the male parent. The word is common to Teutonic languages, and, like the other words for close family relationship, mother, brother, son, sister, daughter, appears in most Indo-European languages. The O. Eng. form is fæder, and it appears in Ger. Vater, Dutch vader, Gr., Lat. pater, whence Romanic Fr. père, Span. padre, etc. The word is used of male ancestors more remote than the actual male parent, and of ancestors in general. It is applied to God, as the Father of Jesus Christ, and as the Creator of the world, and is thus the orthodox term for the First Person of the Trinity. Of the transferred uses of the word many have religious reference; thus it is used of the Christian writers, usually confined to those of the first five centuries, the Fathers of the Church (see below), of whom those who flourished at the end of, or just after the age of, the apostles are known as the Apostolic Fathers. One who stands as a spiritual parent to another is his "father," e.g. godfather, or in the title of bishops or archbishops, Right or Most Reverend Father in God. The pope is, in the Roman Church, the Holy Father. In the Roman Church, father is strictly applied to a "regular," a member of one of the religious orders, and so always in Europe, in English usage, often applied to a confessor, whether regular or secular, and to any Roman priest, and sometimes used of sub-members of a religious society or fraternity in the English Church. Of transferred uses, other than religious, may be mentioned the application to the first founders of an institution, constitution, epoch, etc. Thus the earliest settlers of North America are the Pilgrim Fathers, and the framers of the United States constitution are the Fathers of the Constitution. In ancient Rome the members of the senate are the Patres conscripti, the "Conscript fathers." The senior member or doyen of a society is often called the father. Thus the member of the English House of Commons, and similarly, of the House of Representatives in the United States, America, who has sat for the longest period uninterruptedly, is the Father of the House.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)