American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
- n. The act of shaving the head or part of the head, especially as a preliminary to becoming a priest or a member of a monastic order.
- n. The part of a monk's or priest's head that has been shaved.
- v. To shave the head of.
Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n. The act of clipping the hair, or of shaving the head, or the state of being shorn.
- n. Specifically— In the Roman Catholic and Greek churches, the ceremony of shaving or cutting off the hair of the head, either wholly or partially, performed upon a candidate as a preparatory step to his entering the priesthood or embracing a monastic life; hence, entrance or admittance into the clerical state or a monastic order. In the early church the clergy wore the hair short, but not shaven. The tonsure seems to be as old as the fifth or sixth century. In the Greek Church the hair is wholly shaved off. In the Roman Catholic Church a part only is shaved, so as to form a circle on the crown of the head, and the first tonsure can be given only by a bishop, a mitered abbot, or a cardinal priest.
- n. The bare place on the head of a priest or monk, formed by shaving or cutting the hair.
- To shave or clip the hair of the head of; specifically, to give the tonsure to.
- v. Christianity To subject to the often ritual shaving of the crown of the head as a sign of humility and one's religious vocation. Some tonsures were more dramatic than others, leaving only a fringe of hair. Abolished by Vatican II in the Roman Catholic Church.
- n. The bald patch resulting from being tonsured.
GNU Webster's 1913
- n. The act of clipping the hair, or of shaving the crown of the head; also, the state of being shorn.
- n. The first ceremony used for devoting a person to the service of God and the church; the first degree of the clericate, given by a bishop, abbot, or cardinal priest, consisting in cutting off the hair from a circular space at the back of the head, with prayers and benedictions; hence, entrance or admission into minor orders.
- n. The shaven corona, or crown, which priests wear as a mark of their order and of their rank.
- n. the shaved crown of a monk's or priest's head
- v. shave the head of a newly inducted monk
- n. shaving the crown of the head by priests or members of a monastic order
- From Latin tonsūra ("a clipping, trimming"), from tondeō ("shear, clip, trim"). (Wiktionary)
- Middle English, from Old French, from Medieval Latin tōnsūra, from Latin, a shearing, from tōnsus, past participle of tondēre, to shear; see tem- in Indo-European roots. (American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
“The man with the tonsure is speaking of trainee monk Dumitru Ilie who is said to have got “hammered” and spent the night a woman he met at a party.”
“I always thought the Christian practice of shaving a tonsure was the idea of some brownnoser trying to make his boss with male-pattern baldness look good.”
“Formerly the tonsure was another identifying feature of the cleric.”
“The tonsure is a mark of the clerical state, and in Catholic countries it is made manifest by keeping a small circular spot on the crown of the head shaved perfectly clean.”
“After some time he receives what is called tonsure; that is, on the day of ordination the bishop cuts a little hair from five places on his head, to show that this young man is giving himself up to God.”
“The other, although in citizen's dress, he saw by the tonsure was a priest.”
“Those who have vowed themselves to the service of the Church walking gaily in the dress of soldiers, engaged in carnal matters, letting their hair hang down their shoulders curled and powdered, and thinking scorn of the tonsure, which is the mark of the Kingdom of Heaven.”
“It formed what is known as the tonsure, then the mark of the monastic orders.”
“Others declared that he had no right to the gray capote, and his tonsure was a natural loss of hair; in fact, that he never had been a friar at all.”
“It's more than a little reminiscent of a tonsure, which is to say the haircut that medieval religious types were known to wear from time to time, making this guy a monkish monkey, a lame pun that only works in English and so almost certainly wasn't intended.”
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