From Early Modern English brethren, plural of brother, from Middle English brethren, from Middle English brethere, brether + -en. Ultimately from Old English brōþor, brōþru, influenced by Old English brēþer, dative singular of brōþor. Equivalent to brother + -en. Compare German Brüder ("brothers, brethren"). More at brother. The vowel change (from o to e) is called umlaut.
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