Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary 
a bishop of the first class, who superintends the conduct of other bishops. Archbishops were not known in the east till about the year 320; and though there were some soon after this, who had the title, yet it was only a personal honour, by which the bishops of considerable cities were distinguished. It was not till of late that archbishops because metropolitans, and had suffragans under them. Athanasius appears to have been the first who used the title archbishop, which he gave occasionally to his predecessor. Gregory Nazianzen, in like manner, gave it to Athanasius; not that either of them was entitled to any jurisdiction, or even any precedency, in virtue of this title. Among the Latins, Isidore Hispalensis is the first who speaks of archbishops.
Webster's Dictionary 
(n.) A chief bishop; a church dignitary of the first class (often called a metropolitan or primate) who superintends the conduct of the suffragan bishops in his province, and also exercises episcopal authority in his own diocese.
Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature 
( Ἀρχιεπίσκοπος ) , chief of the clergy of a whole province.
I. Epiphanius (Haer. 68) speaks of Alexander of Alexandria, who lived about 320, as archbishop of that see, and this is the first mention of that title on record; nor is at all clear whether Epiphanius in that passage is not rather speaking after the custom of His Own Time, than intending to assert that Alexander bore the title of archbishop; for the titles of pope and bishop are given to this Alexander in a letter of Arius addressed to him. Be this as it may, Alexandria was the first see which assumed the title, which, however, was at first thought to savor too much of pride; for in the twenty-sixth canon of the Council of Carthage, A.D. 397, at which Augustine was present, it was ordered to be laid aside, and the ancient style of "bishop of the first see" used instead. This impression appears not to have worn out until the Council of Ephesus, where the title of archbishop was attributed to the bishops of the first three sees of the world, viz. Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch, as well as to John of Antioch, and Memnon of Ephesus. In process of time, when the bishops of the great sees assumed the higher title of patriarch, that of archbishop became gradually to be applied to those metropolitans who had other metropolitans under them, i.e. to those whom the Greeks called exarchs, and the Latins, in the middle and subsequent ages, primates. The archbishop differed from the metropolitan in the Eastern Church in that the former had only some privileges of honor and respect above the other bishops, whereas the metropolitans had jurisdiction over the bishops of their provinces (Landon, Eccl. Dict. s.v.).
II. In the Roman Church archbishops have a twofold character and authority:
(1) Episcopal charge of their own dioceses;
(2) Superintendence, to a certain extent, of all the bishops (not Exempt) in their province. Their Jurisdiction includes (a) the power to call synods (Conc. Trident. sess. 24, c. 2):
(b) the right of visitation, on call of a provincial synod (Conc Trid. sess. 24, c. 3). They Rank in the hierarchy next to cardinals and patriarchs. They must receive the Pallium (q.v.) from the pope before exercising their functions. A full account may be found in Thomassin, Vet. Ac. Nov. Eccl. Disciplina, etc., pt. 1, lib. 1, caps. 68, 69.
The number of archbishops in authority was, in 1865 as follows: In Europe (Roman Catholic), 112: viz Italy, 47; Austria, 16; France, 17; Spain, 9; Turkey, 4; Ireland, 4; Portugal, 2; Prussia, Bavaria, Russia (counting in Polocz, which exists only by name), Greece (inclusive of the Ionian Islands), 2 each; Belgium, Holland, England, Baden, Poland, Malta, 1 each. In Asia, 12: viz. Turkey, 10; Spanish possessions, 1; Portuguese possessions, 1. In Africa, 1: viz. Alger. In America, 22: viz. United States, 7; British possessions, 3; Mexico, Spanish possessions, Central America, United States of Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Chili, Dominican Republic, and Hayti, each 1. In Australia, 1. Fourteen (in Turkey, Russia, and Austria) belong to the United Greek, Armenian, Syrian, Maronite, Chaldean (q.v.) rites. There are also some archbishops "in partibus infidelium," who are, of course, not included in the above list. Also the patriarchs (q.v.), though they exercise archiepiscopal rights, have been excluded from this list. The Jansenists (q.v.) in Holland have still one archbishop at Utrecht. We give a list of archbishoprics in our articles on the various countries.
In the United States there were, in 1865, seven provinces of the Roman Catholic Church, viz. Baltimore, Abp. Spaulding; New Orleans, Abp. Odin (died 1860); New York, Abp. McCloskey; Cincinnati, Abp. Purcell; St. Louis, Abp. Kenrick; Oregon, Abp. Blanchet; San Francisco, Abp. Alemany. In the year 1828 Pope Leo XII appointed, after much delay, an archbishop in Colombia, whom Bolivar had proposed.
III. In all the Eastern Churches the difference between archbishops and bishops is less marked than in the Roman Catholic Church. The Greek Church of Turkey has four patriarchs, independent archbishops of Cyprus, Mount Sinai, and Montenegro, and several archbishops or metropolitans in the patriarchate of Constantinople. In Russia, in 1865, 25 prelates had the title archbishop; in Greece, 12; in Austria, 2. With regard to the other Eastern Churches, compare the articles Armenians, Nestorians, Jacobites, Copts, Abyssinian Church.
IV. In Protestant countries, archbishops are found in Finland (Russia), 1; Sweden, 1; England, 2; and Ireland, 2. Bede assigns the first establishment of archbishoprics in England to the time of Lucius, said to be the first Christian king of England, who, after the conversion of his subjects, erected three archbishoprics, viz. London, York, and Llandaff (Caerleon). The dignity of archbishop continued in the see of London one hundred and eighty years, and was then, in the time of the Saxons, transferred to Canterbury. Augustin, the monk who was sent by Pope Gregory to convert the English nation, in the reign of Ethelbert, king of Kent, was the first bishop of Canterbury; but Theodore, the sixth in succession after him, was the first archbishop of that see. The archbishop of Canterbury had anciently the primacy, not only over England, but Ireland also, and all the bishops of the latter were consecrated by him. He was styled by Pope Urban II Alterius Orbis Papa; he had a perpetual legatine power annexed to his archbishopric: he had some marks of royalty, such as the power of coining money, etc. Since the Reformation he is styled Primate and Metropolitan of all England. Archbishop Cranmer was the first who Lore this title. As to precedency, there have been many contests about it, as also about the oath of canonical obedience between the two archiepiscopal sees. Some antiquarians will have it that the archbishop of York was originally: primate of the British Church; for London never was a Roman colony, or the seat of the Roman emperors, as York was, where both Severus and Constantius Chlorus lived and died, and where Constantine the Great was born; and from hence they infer that where the emperors resided was the most likely place to have pre-eminence above the rest. However it be, in the reign of Henry I, William, Corbel, archbishop of Canterbury, obtained from the pope the character of legate, by which he secured to himself a superiority over the see of York, which he visited jure legationis. But after his death the contest still continued; for we find that in the reign of Henry II, a synod being called at Westminster by the pope's legate, the archbishop of Canterbury coming first, seated himself at the right hand of the legate.; but York, coming afterward, refused to take the seat on the left hand, and demanded Canterbury's place, which the latter refusing, York sat down in his lap. This occasioned the synod to break up in disorder, and both parties appealing to the pope, the contest was decided in favor of the see of Canterbury, which enjoys the precedency to this day. The privileges of the archbishop of Canterbury are, among others, to crown the kings of England; to have prelates for his officers-as the bishop of London his provincial dean; the bishop of Winchester his chancellor; the bishop of Lincoln his vice-chancellor; the bishop of Salisbury his precentor; the bishop of Worcester his chaplain; and the bishop of Rochester his crosier- bearer, which last office, since the times of popery, has ceased. He is also the first peer of England next to the royal family. The archbishop of Canterbury has the supreme government of ecclesiastical matters next under the king. Upon the death of any suffragan bishop, the custody of his see devolves upon the archbishop. He has the power of censuring any bishop in his province; he has an ancient right to preside in all provincial councils of his suffragans, which formerly were held once a year, but have been discontinued a long time; so that his power of examining things throughout his province is devolved to the courts, of which he holds several — as the Court of Arches, Prerogative Court, Court of Peculiars, etc., and he has the probate of wills. As to the archbishop of York, he is now styled Primate and Metropolitan of England, and takes place of all peers except the archbishop of Canterbury and the lord chancellor. The province of the archbishop of York consists of the six northern counties, with Cheshire and Nottinghamshire. The rest of England and Wales form the province of the archbishop of Canterbury. The dioceses of the two archbishops — that is to say, the districts in which they exercise ordinary episcopal functions were remodelled by 6 and 7 William IV, c. 77. The diocese of Canterbury comprises Kent, except the city and deanery of Rochester, and some parishes transferred by this act; a number of parishes in Sussex called "peculiars;" with small districts in other dioceses, particularly London. The diocese of the archbishop of York embraces the county of York, except that portion of it now included in the dioceses of Ripon and Manchester, the whole county of Nottingham, and some other detached districts. Scotland, while episcopacy prevailed in that country, had two archbishops — of St. Andrew's and Glasgow — the former of whom was Primate of all Scotland. Wales likewise anciently boasted of an archbishop, whose see (as has been observed) was established at Caerleon, and was afterward translated to St. David's. But the plague raging very much in that county, the archiepiscopal see was again removed to Doll, in Bretagne, where this dignity ended; notwithstanding which, in after ages, the Britons, or Welsh, commenced an action on that account against the archbishop of Canterbury, but were cast. In Ireland there are two Protestant and four Roman Catholic archbishops. Of the former, the archbishop of Armagh is Primate of all Ireland, the archbishop of Dublin being Primate of Ireland. They sit alternately in the House of Lords; the three bishops who, along with them, represent the Church of Ireland, being also chosen by rotation from the whole body. Previous to the creation of an archbishopric in Ireland, the authority of the archbishop of Canterbury extended to that island. The amount of control which belongs to an archbishop over the bishops of his province is not very accurately defined; but if any bishop introduces irregularities into his diocese, or is guilty of immorality, the archbishop may call him to account, and even deprive him. In 1822, the archbishop of Armagh, who is primate of all Ireland, deposed the bishop of Clogher on the latter ground. To the archbishop of Canterbury belongs the honor of placing the crown on the sovereign's head at his coronation; and the archbishop of York claims the like privilege in the case of the queen-consort, whose perpetual chaplain he is.
The Episcopal Church of Scotland has at present no archbishop, but the presiding bishop has the title of primus, or metropolitan. In the English colonies, the bishops of Calcutta, Sydney, New Zealand, Montreal, Capetown, each of whom presides over an ecclesiastical province (a number of dioceses), have the title METROPOLITAN. (See Metropolitan).
The election of an archbishop does not differ from that of a bishop, (See Bishop); but when he is invested with his office he is said to be "enthroned," whereas a bishop is "consecrated." He also writes himself "by divine providence," a bishop being "by divine permission;" and has the title of "Grace" and "Most Reverend Father in God," while a bishop is styled "Lord" and "Right Reverend Father in God." The archbishop is entitled to present to all ecclesiastical livings in the disposal of diocesan bishops if not filled up within six months; and every bishop, whether created or translated, is bound to make a legal conveyance to the archbishop of the next avoidance of one such dignity or benefice belonging to his see as the archbishop shall choose. This is called the archbishop's option. (See Bishop); (See Episcopacy). See Bingham, Orig. Eccles. bk. 2, ch. 17; Coleman, Ancient Christianity, ch. 8, § 4.
V. In the Protestant churches of Germany the title archbishop is not customary, yet it was conferred, on April 19,1829, by order of the king of Prussia, on the superintendent general of the province of Prussia, Borowski, with the declaration, "Why I should not the highest dignitaries of our evangelical church have the same claim to this dignity as the clergymen of several other evangelical countries, in which it has been preserved without interruption?" See Nicolovius, Die bischoft. Wurde in Preussen's evangel. Kirche (Kinigsberg, 1834).
On the Roman Catholic archbishops, see Helfert, Von den Rechten und Pflichten der Bischofe (Prague, 1832); and Mast, Dogmat. — histor. Abhandlung uber die rechtliche Stellung der Erzbischofe (Freiburg, 1847). A list of all archbishoprics, with their suffragans, throughout the world, will be given in an APPENDIX. — Hook, Church Dict. s.v.; Chambers's Encyclopaedia, s.v.