Yahoo Answers is shutting down on 4 May 2021 (Eastern Time) and the Yahoo Answers website is now in read-only mode. There will be no changes to other Yahoo properties or services, or your Yahoo account. You can find more information about the Yahoo Answers shutdown and how to download your data on this help page.

Anonymous asked in Society & CultureReligion & Spirituality · 1 decade ago

Why do Quakers say "thee" and "thou"?

I think its cool.

And what is talked about at meetings? - can you give examples or is it not to be disclosed?


Powzer - great idea - I'm up for it!

Update 2:

I know its old English - I am asking why British Quakers say it, which they do

Update 3:

Mariah - I think some British Quakers still say it. And do you have an answer to my second question?

Update 4:

Thanks Caicos, I was interested in what was said at one of these inspiration moments

Update 5:

Mickey - thats weir a *** frum lad tha knows!

Update 6:

ok yahoo "come from" is that better

17 Answers

  • jinti
    Lv 4
    1 decade ago
    Favourite answer

    Among Conservative Friends in the US, you do still hear plain speech (that's what we call it), though not from all of us. I use it at times with other Friends, but rarely with people who are not Friends. To me, it's very intimate, probably because my mother spoke to me this way as a child, and I associate it with close family, though I use it with others, too. At any given time, I usually have a couple messages on my answering machine from a plain-speaking Friend ("I'll call thee later", and that sort of thing).

    I like plain speech, but some Friends are against it because it can create a sort of insider/outsider division, which is not a Quakerly thing to do. Using thee only to other Friends nowadays is the direct opposite of its original intention, which was to refuse to distinguish among people by using "you" to some (originally a plural form, which then became used as a polite singular) and "thee" to others (the original singular form, which then became used only to equals and subordinates). The Quaker view is that we are all equals, and such distinctions between people are false. So some argue that since society in general only uses one form now (you), Friends are the ones making a distinction nowadays, and we should stop.

    A grammatical note: We don't use thou -- for some reason, we only use thee, even as the subject of a sentence. We also use 3rd person verbs with thee -- for instance, we say "how is thee?" or "thee knows". I'm not sure why that is, but I've heard that it has to do with a dialect back in England which we've preserved to some degree here. I don't know if that's true.

    About meeting, well, a previous message said it well. We sit in silence, in what we call waiting worship. We are listening for the God to speak to us, and if we are given something to share with the meeting, we stand and say it as simply and directly as we can, then sit again. No one answers -- this is our ministry and it is not subject to debate. After a time, someone else may stand and speak either on the same theme or another. Or sometimes no one speaks. The silence itself can be quite powerful.

    If you are interested, you can attend a meeting yourself to see what it's like. Everyone is welcome to attend, and you will not be pressured to speak or "convert" or anything like that. There is generally a social time afterwards (coffee and cookies, that sort of thing) when you can ask questions and chat with people. If you're in the US or Canada, you can find a meeting near you here: If you're in the UK, you can check here:

  • Mariah
    Lv 4
    1 decade ago

    My entire family (excluding my mother and I) are all quakers, and go to the Friends' Church, and they don't speak that way, or do any of the other things people seem to be assuming about Quakers as of late. They aren't Amish for pete's sake (I grew up around Amish people. I lived in the middle of the third largest Amish community in the world. Near Shipshewana, Indiana, so I'm quite knowledgeable about the Amish people also.)


    I'm sorry for reacting like that about people assuming stuff. Lately it seems everytime I hear the word Quaker, it's followed by some sort of misconception, or stupid things relating to oatmeal.

    I'm afraid I don't have an answer to your second question. I'm not sure if it is 'secret' information, but I've never heard any of them talk about anything discussed at church or other meetings. However, this may be because my mother and I are Wiccan, and not Quaker, so really, religion in our family isn't a topic often discussed. There aren't any tensions, but out of respect for each other, we avoid the topic.

  • 1 decade ago

    When the Quaker movement started, one said "thou" to equals, but "you" to superiors. The point of saying "thee" and "thou" is that there is no such thing as a social superior among Quakers.

    They don't discuss things at meetings. They sit and meditate and pray and if anyone feels inspired, then that person will speak. There is no pressure on people to speak to interrupt the silence -- there is something beautiful and constructive in the silence.

  • 1 decade ago

    I've known a lot of Quakers, "Society of Friends". I went to graduate school with one. Richard Nixon was one--and I've never heard one of them say thee or thou.

    You just made this up right?

  • 1 decade ago

    It's old English. Read Shakespeare.

  • 1 decade ago

    I think it's the same as the other languages where there's a formal and informal version of the word 'you'- tu and vous in French, du and Sie in German.

  • 1 decade ago

    Are there really still live Quakers around today? They must be like walking dinosaurs...

  • 1 decade ago

    I think its an ancient way of speaking English.

  • 1 decade ago

    We should all speak in Old English (not furniture polish) again.

  • 1 decade ago

    Perhaps because the divine knows no gender.

Still have questions? Get answers by asking now.