The term Catholic has a number of related meanings:
- originally it comes from a Greek word meaning universal - and thus, referred to the church as a whole, as opposed to a particular local church. This is the sense in which it is used in the historic creeds ("one holy, catholic and apostolic church") - and in this sense Protestants and Eastern Orthodox consider themselves to be part of the catholic church
- the term has evolved, however, to refer to the Roman Catholic Church specifically. It also refers to the Eastern Catholic churches, which form part of the Roman Catholic Church, yet follow Eastern rather than Roman traditions in liturgy and other matters
- it can also be used to refer to splinter groups which have broken away from the Roman Catholic Church. It is used in particular to refer to those groups which while breaking away maintain much of the Roman Catholic church's traditions - as opposed to Protestant churches, which rejected much of the Roman Catholic Church's position when they split from it
- it also refers to a tendency in Anglicanism (Anglo-Catholicism), which sees the Anglican church as nearer to the Roman Catholic Church than to Protestantism, and thus adopts many of the Roman Catholic church's tradition. A similar tendency also exists in the Lutheran churches.