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The French word answering to the English abbot, the head of an abbey; but commonly a title of respect given in France to everyone vested with the ecclesiastical habit or dress. After the 16th century, the name was given, in social parlance, to candidates for some priory or abbey in the gift of the crown. Many of these aspirants became well known in literary and fashionable life. By further extension, the name came to be applied to unbeneficed secular ecclesiastics generally.

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