- 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
Examples from the Web for hair-shirt
Historical Examples of hair-shirt
I had then the happy inspiration to have recourse to the hair-shirt, which hitherto I had dreaded.The Strolling Saint
I might as well put on a hair-shirt for the rest of my existence.Twos and Threes
G. B. Stern
She kneels to say her prayers on the edge of that hair-shirt.The Village Rector
Honore de Balzac
A severer line of business, perhaps, such as I had read of; something that included black bread and a hair-shirt.Dream Days
He was at once ascetic and sensual, alternating between the hair-shirt of penance and the embraces of Catharine Sedley.The Works of Whittier, Volume VI (of VII)
John Greenleaf Whittier
- a shirt made of haircloth worn next to the skin as a penance
- a secret trouble or affliction
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.