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hair shirt

a garment of coarse haircloth, worn next to the skin as a penance by ascetics and penitents.
self-imposed punishment, suffering, sacrifice, or penance.
Origin of hair shirt
1350-1400; cf. hair Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for hair shirt
Historical Examples
  • Then their making me shall be my hair shirt, and I shall be fitted just as well.

    The Vicar of Bullhampton

    Anthony Trollope
  • You might wear a hair shirt,” she suggested; “they are 122 splendid for the soul.

    The Bright Shawl Joseph Hergesheimer
  • His linen, thick with darns, rubbed his skin like a hair shirt.

    Ursula Honore de Balzac
  • However, every profession has its hair shirt and its Chinese puzzles.

  • He wore no hair shirt; I doubt if he knew the taste of the Discipline.

    The Cardinal's Snuff-Box Henry Harland
  • He wore a hair shirt, and an iron chain around his loins, which he never laid aside, even in sleep.

  • But -Beckett had dressed himself in a hair shirt and flogged himself with an iron scourge.

  • Francis stripped off all his clothing but his hair shirt and the Bishop covered him with an old cloak.

    The Rise of the Mediaeval Church Alexander Clarence Flick
  • As a young man he wore a hair shirt and an iron chain next the skin.

    Religion & Sex Chapman Cohen
  • England, apparently with a sigh of relief, lays aside her hair shirt, and proves that she has been wearing a silk vest under it.

    English Costume

    Dion Clayton Calthrop
British Dictionary definitions for hair shirt

hair shirt

a shirt made of haircloth worn next to the skin as a penance
a secret trouble or affliction
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Idioms and Phrases with hair shirt

hair shirt

A self-imposed punishment or penance, as in I apologized a dozen times—do you want me to wear a hair shirt forever? This term, mentioned from the 13th century on, alludes to wearing a coarse, scratchy hair shirt, the practice of religious ascetics. Its figurative use dates from the mid-1800s.
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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