REVEREND (Lat. reverendus, gerundive of revereri, to revere, pay respect to), a term of respect or courtesy, now especially used as the ordinary prefix of address to the names of ministers of religion of all denominations. The uses of Med. Lat. reverendus do not confine the term to those in orders; Du Cange (Gloss, s.v.) defines it as titulus honorarius, etiam mulieribus potioris dignitatie concessus, and in the 15th century in English it is found as a general term of respectful address. The usual prefix of address of a parson was " sir," representing Lat. dominus (see SIR), or " master." It has been habitually used of the parochial clergy of the Church of England since the end of the 17th century. It is not, however, a title of honour or dignity, and no denomination has any exclusive right to use it. A faculty was ordered to be issued for the erection of a tombstone, the inscription on which contained the name of a Wesleyan minister prefixed by "reverend"; this the incumbent had refused (Keat v. Smith, 1876, i P.D. 73). In the Church of England deans are addressed as " very reverend," bishops as " right reverend," archbishops as " most reverend." The Moderator of the Church of Scotland is also styled " right reverend."
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)