Friar vs. Fryer

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Friar and fryer are two words that are spelled and pronounced in the same manner but have very different meanings, which means they are homophones. We will examine the definitions of the words friar and fryer, where these terms came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

A friar is a member of one of the male religious orders known as the Mendicant orders. The mendicant orders are the Carmelites, the Franciscans, the Augustianians and the Dominicans. These religious orders were formed in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, based on an apostolic ideal. While many Roman Catholic nuns and monks had acquired wealth in the growth of their monasteries, friars were interested in taking a vow of poverty, chastity and obedience. The medieval monastery was meant to be a spiritual place with a religious life of contemplation in a cloister. St. Francis of Assisi founded one of the best-known orders of friars known as the Franciscans. They pledged to lead an ascetic lifestyle among the laity. A friar was devoted to a faithful life of simplicity as an evangelical missionary in a certain province or parish, begging for alms in order to preach and continue his ministry. Friars still exist, as do the mendicant orders. Friars may minister to the sick, educate the laity, visit the imprisoned or engage in many other good works in the name of God. A friar may or may not be an ordained priest. Perhaps the best-known friar in literature is the jovial Friar Tuck, a member of Robin Hood’s band of merry men. In some stories, Friar Tuck is a proficient fighter, and in other stories, Friar Tuck is simply comic relief. The word friar is derived from the Old French word frere, which means brethren.

A fryer may be a large vat of hot oil suitable for deep-fat frying. In North America, the word fryer may also mean a young chicken, seven to ten weeks old and weighing two and a half pounds to four and a half pounds, after being processed. In the past, this size of chicken was most often prepared by frying, rather than stewing or baking. The spelling variant frier is sometimes, but rarely, seen.


Friar Benjamin of the Most Holy Trinity walked down Towne Avenue in Skid Row, one hand wheeling an ice chest filled with oranges and bottled water, the other clutching plastic bags of peanut butter and ham and cheese sandwiches, chips and fruit snacks. (Crux)

For nearly 600 years, Dominican friars in Florence, Italy, have inhabited the Convent of San Marco, one of the city’s great spiritual and cultural hubs, renowned for its frescoes by Fra Angelico and once home to the fiery preacher Girolamo Savonarola. (The New York Times)

I wasn’t impressed with the accompanying french fries, which could have been left in the fryer a minute or two longer, but they were no worse than some cooled-down McDonald’s fries. (The Huntington News)

While Clooney considered serving chicken at the pub for some time, it wasn’t until they acquired a new fryer that he put the option into play. (The Mail Tribune)

That may not seem like much, but when you consider that Georgia, the country’s largest grower of broilers, also known as whole fryer chickens, produces an average of 29.3 million pounds of chicken every day, the difference could mean billions of dollars a week. (The Atlanta Journal Constitution)