Abbreviations, Ecclesiastical.—The words most commonly abbreviated at all times are proper names, titles (official or customary), of persons or corporations, and words of frequent occurrence. A good list of those used in Roman Republican and early Imperial times may be seen in Egbert's "Latin Inscriptions" (New York, 1896), 417–459. The Jewish scribes and Talmudic scholars also had frequent recourse to Abbreviations.
Between the seventh and ninth centuries the ancient Roman system of Abbreviations gave way to a more difficult one that gradually grew up in the monastic houses and in the chanceries of the new Teutonic kingdoms. Merovingian, Lombard, and Anglo-Saxon scripts offer each their own Abbreviations, not to speak of the unique scotica manus or libri scottice scripti (Irish hand, or books written in the medieval Irish hand). Eventually such productive centres of technical manuscripts as the Papal Chancery, the theological schools of Paris and Oxford, and the civil-law school of Bologna set the standards of Abbreviations for all Europe. The medieval manuscripts abound in Abbreviations, owing in part to the abandonment of the uncial, or quasi-uncial, and the almost universal use of the cursive, hand. The medieval writer inherited a few from Christian antiquity; others he invented or adapted, in order to save time and parchment. They are found especially in manuscripts of scholastic theology and canon law, annals and chronicles, the Roman law, and in administrative documents, civil and ecclesiastical (charters, privileges, bulls, rescripts). They multiplied with time, and were never so numerous as on the eve of the discovery of printing; many of the early printed books offer this peculiarity, together with other characteristics of the manuscript page. The development of printing brought about the abandonment of many Abbreviations, while it suggested and introduced new ones—a process also favoured by the growth of ecclesiastical legislation, the creation of new offices, etc. There was less medieval abbreviation in the text of books much used on public occasions, e.g. missals, antiphonaries, bibles; in one way or another the needs of students seem to have been the chief cause of the majority of medieval Abbreviations. The means of abbreviation were usually full points or dots (mostly in Roman antiquity), the semicolon (eventually conventionalized), lines (horizontal, perpendicular, oblong, wavy curves, and commas). Vowel-sounds were frequently written not after, but over, the consonants. Certain letters, like p and q, that occur with extreme frequency, e.g. in prepositions and terminations, became the source of many peculiar abbreviations; similarly, frequently recurring words like et (and), est (is).
Habit and convenience are to-day the principal motives for using abbreviations. Most of those in actual use fall under one or other of the following heads: I. Administrative; II. Liturgical; III. Scholastic; IV. Chronological.
I. The first class of Abbreviations includes those used in the composition of Pontifical documents. They were once very numerous, and lists of them may be seen in the works quoted below (e.g. Quantin, Prou). It may be well to state at once that since 29 December, 1878, by order of Leo XIII, the great papal documents (Litteræ Apostolica) are no longer written in the old Gothic hand known as bollatico; all Abbreviations, with the exception of a few obvious ones, like S.R.E., were abolished by the same authority (Acta S. Sedis, XI, 465–467). In the transaction of ordinary business the Roman Congregations are wont to use certain brief and pithy formulas (e.g. Negative = "No"; Negative et amplius = "No with emphasis"). They are not, correctly speaking, Abbreviations. For a list of these see Canon Law. This class includes also the abbreviations for the names of most sees. The full Latin titles of all existing (Latin) dioceses may be seen in the Roman annual, "Gerarehia Cattolica;" a complete list of the Latin names of all known dioceses (extant or extinct) is found in the large folio work of the Comte de Mas Latrie, "Trésor de chronologie, d'histoire et de géographie" (Paris, 1884). For the same purpose the reader may also consult the episcopal catalogues of the Benedictine Gams, "Series Episcoporum Ecclesiæ Catholica;" (Ratisbon, 1873–86), and the Franciscan Conrad Eubel, "Hierarchia Catholica Medii Ævi" (Münster, 1898–1902). Under this general heading may be included all abbreviated forms of addresses in ordinary intercourse, whether of individuals or of members of religious orders, congregations, institutes, to which may be added the forms of addresses usual for members of Catholic lay societies and the Papal orders of merit. (See Catholic Societies, Orders of Merit.) The Abbreviations of the titles of Roman Congregations, and of the individual canonical ecclesiastical authorities, belong also to this class. II. A second class of Abbreviations includes those used in the description of liturgical acts or the directions for their performance, e.g. the Holy Mass, the Divine Office (Breviary), the ecclesiastical devotions, etc. In the following list the Breviary Abbreviations are marked: Br. Here may also be classed the abbreviated forms for the name of God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost; also for the names of the Blessed Virgin, the saints, etc.; likewise Abbreviations used in the administration of the Sacraments, mortuary epitaphs, etc. (to which class belong the numerous Catacomb inscriptions); finally some miscellaneous Abbreviations like those used in the publication of documents concerning beatification and canonization. III. In the third class belong scholastic Abbreviations, used to designate honorific titles acquired in the schools, to avoid the repetition of lengthy titles of books and reviews, or to facilitate reference to ecclesiastical and civil legislation. IV. In the fourth class of Abbreviations belong all such as are used to describe the elements of the year, civil or ecclesiastical.
|Abbreviations used in Apostolic Rescripts.|
|Appatis.||Approbatis—Having been approved.|
|Aucte.||Auctoritate—By the Authority.|
|Cens.||Censuris—Censures (abl. or dat. case).|
|Circumpeone.||Circumspectione—Circumspection (abl. case).|
|Coione.||Communione—Communion (abl. case).|
|Confeone.||Confessione—Confession (abl. case).|
|Consciæ.||Conscientiæ—Of [or to] conscience.|
|Constbus||Constitutionibus—Constitutions (abl. or dat. case).|
|Discreoni.||Discretioni—To the Discretion.|
|Dnus.||Dominus—Lord, Sir, or Mr.|
|Ecclæ.||Ecclesiæ—Of [or to] the Church|