WHAT’S IN A NAME?
There are several different reasons given for our strange name. No matter what version of history you subscribe to it cannot be denied that the Odd Fellows are a unique and diverse group!
One old and apparently authoritative history of Odd Fellowship gives the explanation, “That common laboring men should associate themselves together and form a fraternity for social unity and fellowship and for mutual help was such a marked violation of the trends of the times (England in the 1700’s) that they became known as ‘peculiar’ or ‘odd,’ and hence they were derided as ‘Odd Fellows.’ Because of the appropriateness of the name, those engaged in forming these unions accepted it. When legally incorporated the title ‘Odd Fellows’ was adopted.”
Another explanation is that the original Odd Fellows were men who were engaged in various or odd trades that didn’t have the numbers to form the security provided by a trade guild or union like the Masons. These workers of “odd jobs” banded together and initially met in the back rooms of pubs, paying a penny per week in dues that would help members who fell ill or had passed away. Eventually, the idea spread and formed a network of more formalized Lodges and the Odd Fellows developed their own unique rituals, philosophy, and purpose.
Modern references state that the true reason for the name Odd Fellows isn’t known or documented. Whatever the reason may have been, the unusual name has been the object of public curiosity (and on occasion derision or mirth) for well over 200 years.