Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.

Abbe

Abbe, originally the French equivalent for Abbot; but previous to the Revolution it was used, in a more general sense, for anyone who received the tonsure. The French king had a right to nominate Abbes commendataires, who without any duties obtained one-third of the revenues of their monasteries; the title was thus often applied to many who had neither taste nor ability for the clerical calling. A considerable class in society was formed by these abbes, who, not holding any appointments, often took to literary work, teaching, etc. The name is now loosely applied to any unbeneficed clerk.