from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A coarse cloth; haircloth.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A hairshirt.
  • n. A leather strap studded with metallic barbs that cut into flesh as a constant reminder of Christ's suffering.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A kind of haircloth undergarment.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Same as cilicium.


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

French, from Latin cilicium, a covering made of Cilician goat's hair, from Cilicia .

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From French cilice, from Latin cilicium ("clothing made of goatskin"), from Cilicia where it originates from.


  • It's probably under the literary radar around here I hope, but "cilice" has gotten quite some use lately in The Da Vinci Code. MORE PYNCHONIAN VOCAB.

  • Opus Dei weirdican Ruth Kelly was unavailable for religious comment, as she was playing with her cilice, but BBC Weather Girl Carol Kirkwood said, "We advise people not to travel, as getting a frog in the face at terminal velocity is not likely to make for a good day".

    More Weather Warnings for the UK

  • I thought I saw homage paid to the character of Silas Paul Bettany in The Davinci Code when Barnabus appears with a cilice wrapped around his right arm.

    Caprica Episode 'Know Thy Enemy' is Transcendent

  • Then she drew the cilice over his raw and bleeding skin and threw the robe upon all and went down to the slave with a goblet of wine and a bowl of meat broth in her hands.

    The Book of The Thousand Nights And A Night

  • Donald Rumsfeld habitually wore a cilice when standing at his lectern to help him stay awake through 15 hour work days.

    I win!

  • I expect she will be tightening up her cilice tonight.

    There's Talk Of Witch-Hunts

  • If one actually sees a real cilice, you'll recognize that the "sharp spikes" are actually smooth points that remind the wearer of their presence, but could never break the skin.

    Archive 2006-06-01

  • Not, in fact, a sexy, sadomasochistic cult, Opus Dei was described inaccurately and to the extreme, for example, the spiked bloody cilice of Silas used to horrify readers and audience members.

    Archive 2006-06-01

  • Pope Paul VI, for example, was said to wear a cilice a device worn around the thigh and intended to cause discomfort on occasion, and Catholics have long regarded the stigmata as a sign of special favor.

    So much for moderation.

  • And the fact that it was even written at all now enables me to see Paul Bettany playing a celibate albino monk who insists on a cilice belt or thorns around his loins in the upcoming movie.

    Archive 2006-01-01


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  • "'My shirt is like a cilice with the salt. I should wear it dirty and reasonably soft, but that Killick takes it away ... and flings it into the sea-water tub...'"

    --O'Brian, The Wine-Dark Sea, 81

    March 14, 2008

  • Haircloth; a hairshirt or undergarment made of haircloth.

    December 29, 2007