The word "deacon" is derived from the Greek word diákonos, which is a standard ancient Greek word meaning "servant", "waiting-man", "minister", or "messenger". One commonly promulgated speculation as to its etymology is that it literally means "through the dust", referring to the dust raised by the busy servant or messenger.
The only person in Scripture to hold the title "deacon" is Phoebe, described in passing in Romans 16:1-2 as a deacon (diakonos) of the church in Cenchreae, without specific duties or authority defined in the position she held. It is generally believed that the office of deacon originated in the selection of seven men by the apostles, among them Stephen, to assist with the charitable work of the early church as recorded in Acts 6. Female deacons are mentioned by Pliny the Younger in a letter to Trajan dated c. 112. The exact relationship between male and female Deacons varies. In some traditions a female deacon is simply a member of the order of deacons; in others, deaconesses constitute a separate order; in others, the title "deaconess" was also given to the wife of a deacon.
A biblical description of the qualities required of a deacon, and of their household, can be found in 1 Timothy 3:1-13.
Among the more prominent deacons in history are Stephen, the first Christian martyr (the "protomartyr"); Philip, whose baptism of theEthiopian eunuch is recounted in Acts 8:26-40; Saint Lawrence, an early Roman martyr; Saint Vincent of Saragossa, protomartyr of Spain; Saint Francis of Assisi, founder of the mendicant Franciscans; Saint Ephrem the Syrian and Saint Romanos the Melodist, a prominent early hymnographer. Prominent historical figures who played major roles as deacons and went on to higher office include SaintAthanasius of Alexandria, Thomas Becket and Reginald Pole. On June 8, 536 a serving Roman deacon was raised to Pope, Silverius. His father, Pope Agapetus had died and the office had been vacant for over a month.