ACEPHALUS, or Acephalous, something without a Head. See HEAD.

The Word is composed of the Privative ἀ, and κεφαλή, Caput, Head.

Pliny represents the Blemmyes as a headless or Acephalous nation. See BLEMMYES.
Acephalous worms are frequent. See WORM, and VERMES.

Acephalus is more frequently applied, in a figurative sense, to those destitute of a leader or chief.

Thus, the name Acephali is sometimes applied to such priests or bishops as are exempted from the discipline and jurisdiction of their ordinary bishop or patriarch. See EXEMPTION, PRIVILEGE, PECULIAR.

Anastasius the Library-Keeper calls this exemption from the jurisdiction of a patriarch, Autocephalia. See PATRIARCH.

We find a great number of canons of councils, capitulars of princes, etc. against Acephalous clerks, etc.

In our ancient law-books, the term is also used for those poor people who had no proper lord; as holding nothing in fee, either of king, bishop, baron, or other feudal lord.L. Hen. I.

In ecclesiastical history, Acephali frequently occurs as the denomination of diverse sects: particularly, Of those who in the affair of the Council of Ephesus refused to follow either St. Cyril or John of Antioch.Of certain heretics of the Vth century who at first followed Peter Mongus, but afterwards abandoned him upon his subscribing to the Council of Chalcedon; they themselves sticking to the errors of Eutyches.Of the adherents of Severus of Antioch and of all in general who refused to admit the Council of Chalcedon.Some will have the word properly to denote hesitator;and suppose it applied on this occasion by reason they stood neuter or dubious, hesitating about coming into the council. But the former opinion is the more probable; Acephalous being never used in the latter sense.

In some writers, the Acephalous heretics are called Acephali, Acephalita.