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Originally in Latin the word caritas meant preciousness, dearness, high price. From this, in Christian theology, caritas became the standard Latin translation for the Greek word agape, meaning an unlimited loving-kindness to all others, such as the love of God. This much wider concept is the meaning of the word charity in the Christian triplet "faith, hope and charity", as used by the King James Version of the Bible in its translation of St Paul's Letter to the Corinthians. However the English word more generally used for this concept, both before and since (and by the "King James" Bible at other passages), is the more direct love.
What is a charity?
A charity is a particular type of voluntary organisation – one that takes a distinctive legal form and has a special tax status. In the UK today there are probably over 500,000 voluntary organisations – fewer than 200,000 of these are registered charities.
Charities can be organised in a number of different ways – they can be an unincorporated association, a trust or a company limited by guarantee. Each of these has a different governance structure – for example, a charity that is formed as a registered company will be governed by a board of directors, a charity that is set up as a trust will be governed by a board of trustees. Every charity has to have a governing document that sets out the charity's objects and how it is to be administered.