In fact that accolade belongs to nuns. A professional was originally one who took a public vow. By the 15th century, the term came to be used by anyone openly professing mastery of a particular craft. Then, as now, this involved adhering to certain standards. The Victorians later turned 'professional' into a dirty word, meaning someone who worked for pay, unlike amateurs, who literally laboured for love. Twentieth-century capitalism soon righted matters and professionals are now firmly associated with competence, courtesy and even, occasionally, ethics.
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