FRIAR (from the Lat. frater, through the Fr. frère), the English generic name for members of the mendicant religious orders. Formerly it was the title given to individual members of these orders, as Friar Laurence (in Romeo and Juliet), but this is not now common. In England the chief orders of friars were distinguished by the colour of their habit: thus the Franciscans or Minors were the Grey Friars; the Dominicans or Preachers were the Black Friars (from their black mantle over a white habit), and the Carmelites were the White Friars (from their white mantle over a brown habit): these, together with the Austin Friars or Hermits, formed the four great mendicant orders - Chaucer's "alle the ordres foure." Besides the four great orders of friars, the Trinitarians (q.v.), though really canons, were in England called Trinity Friars or Red Friars; the Crutched or Crossed Friars were often identified with them, but were really a distinct order; there were also a number of lesser orders of friars, many of which were suppressed by the second council of Lyons in 1274. Detailed information on these orders and on their position in England is given in separate articles. The difference between friars and monks is explained in article Monasticism. Though the usage is not accurate, friars, and also canons regular, are often spoken of as monks and included among the monastic orders.
See Fr. Cuthbert, The Friars and how they came to England, pp. 11-32 (1903); also F. A. Gasquet, English Monastic Life, pp. 234-249 (1904), where special information on all the English friars is conveniently brought together.
(E. C. B.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)