Difference between a sister and a nun


Is there a difference between a sister and a nun? If so, what is/are the difference(s)?


A sister is a vowed religious who works within the greater community as well as their own religious community. A nun is a cloistered religious and most activity is restricted to just their own community and rarely venture outside of their religious community.



Thank you for the quick response and excellent explanation!:thumbsup:


Semantics only in most cases… Many who would be called Sister by this definition call themselves Nuns and vice versa

A Rose by any other name… :slight_smile:


Nun is a common but erroneus term for both cloistered and active women religious.


Erroneous? What does it refer to then?


Nuns are technically contemplative women in monastic and mendicant orders. They are cloistered. But they can be called “sister” so this can be confusing. Nuns are sisters, but not all sisters are nuns.

The other Religious Sisters are active women (a thought unthinkable to the middle ages!)…usually in the newer congregations from the past few centuries(technically not Orders; they are under constitutions with no Rule, and take simple vows not solemn)

Like the differences between a Monk, a Friar, a Canon Regular, Clerk Regular, and a Brother or Father in one of the newer, non-solemn-vows congregations. Of course, all of the above can be called “brother” or “father” (depending on if they are a priest), but not all brothers are in Orders. When they aren’t, it is the default term for those in the newer congregations-not-orders…


Sorry. My emphasis was dodgy. I meant it’s erroneous to use it for both. Only applies to cloistered women religious. Sorry.


If a sister takes simple vows and not solemn vows, does that mean they can also get married and be active within the Church? Or is that something else entirely?


no, simple vows refer to the vows taken by members of congregations (e.g Sisters of the Holy Cross)), to put it simply, simple vows are less rigid than say the solemn vows of the Benedictines. So, no, a Sister may not marry. Hope that helped :thumbsup:



hiiii iam a new member of this great forum… what you said is fully true… mostly iam here to gain the knowledge of christ… ( grow in the blessing and in the knowledge of our lord and saviour jesus christ) \ peter\ and to get to know a true catholic friends… eventually… i ask the lord our god to bestow upon christians with endless blessings… amen… :slight_smile: :thumbsup:


Just wanted to say Welcome Tommy…


Great thread.


Hi Tommy and everybody else.

I would have said that “nun” is their vocation/occupation/job and “sister” is the way you address them. Like the correlation between priest and father.


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