One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
In the Church in Alexandria and Constantinople in the 5th and 6th centuries: a member of a class of unordained helpers who attended the sick in times of plague, etc. Usually in plural.
Late 17th century; earliest use found in William Cave (1637–1713), Church of England clergyman and patristic scholar. From post-classical Latin Parabolanus, variant of Parabalanus a person in the Church of Alexandria charged with the care of the sick from Byzantine Greek παραβαλανεύς from ancient Greek παρα- + βαλανεύς bath attendant, of unknown origin.
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