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Old English bisceop "bishop, high priest (Jewish or pagan)," from Late Latin episcopus, from Greek episkopos "watcher, overseer," a title for various government officials, later taken over in a Church sense, from epi- "over" (see epi-) + skopos "watcher," from skeptesthai "look at" (see scope (n.1)). Given a specific sense in the Church, but the word also was used in the New Testament as a descriptive title for elders, and continues as such in some non-hierarchical Christian sects.
A curious example of word-change, as effected by the genius of different tongues, is furnished by the English bishop and the French évêque. Both are from the same root, furnishing, perhaps the only example of two words from a common stem so modifying themselves in historical times as not to have a letter in common. (Of course many words from a far off Aryan stem are in the same condition.) The English strikes off the initial and terminal syllables, leaving only piscop, which the Saxon preference for the softer labial and hissing sounds modified into bishop. Évêque (formerly evesque) merely softens the p into v and drops the last syllable. [William S. Walsh, "Handy-Book of Literary Curiosities," Philadelphia, J.B. Lippincott, 1892]Late Latin episcopus in Spanish became obispo. Cognate with Old Saxon biscop, Old High German biscof. The chess piece (formerly archer, before that alfin) was so called from 1560s.
Bishop Bish·op (bĭsh'əp), J. Michael. Born 1936.
American microbiologist. He shared a 1989 Nobel Prize for discovering a sequence of genes that can cause cancer when mutated.
an overseer. In apostolic times, it is quite manifest that there was no difference as to order between bishops and elders or presbyters (Acts 20:17-28; 1 Pet. 5:1, 2; Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3). The term bishop is never once used to denote a different office from that of elder or presbyter. These different names are simply titles of the same office, "bishop" designating the function, namely, that of oversight, and "presbyter" the dignity appertaining to the office. Christ is figuratively called "the bishop [episcopos] of souls" (1 Pet. 2:25).