from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th 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.
  • transitive v. To shave the head of.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. 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.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The act of clipping the hair, or of shaving the crown of the head; also, the state of being shorn.
  • n.
  • 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.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To shave or clip the hair of the head of; specifically, to give the tonsure to.
  • 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.
  • n. The bare place on the head of a priest or monk, formed by shaving or cutting the hair.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • 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


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)
From Latin tonsūra ("a clipping, trimming"), from tondeō ("shear, clip, trim"). (Wiktionary)



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  • Looking at Project Gutenberg, I find

    Stephen Dedalus, displeased and sleepy, leaned
    his arms on the top of the staircase and looked coldly at the shaking gurgling face that blessed him, equine in its length, and at the light untonsured hair, grained and hued like pale oak.

    A choir gives back menace and echo, assisting about the altar's horns, the snorted Latin of jackpriests moving burly in their albs, tonsured and oiled and gelded, fat with the fat of kidneys of wheat.

    August 26, 2009

  • in Joyce's Ulysses at least twice

    August 23, 2009

  • See: Eskiem, Rassophore, Stavrophore & Schema.

    January 30, 2009

  • Never knew it had a name. Well, I never really thought about it. ;-)

    May 29, 2007

  • monk hair!

    May 29, 2007