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  1. (in Christianity) a man who has withdrawn from the world for religious reasons, especially as a member of an order of cenobites living according to a particular rule and under vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
  2. (in any religion) a man who is a member of a monastic order: a Buddhist monk.
  3. Printing. a dark area on a printed page caused by uneven inking of the plate or type.Compare friar(def 2).
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Origin of monk

before 900; Middle English; Old English munuc < Late Latin monachus < Greek monachós hermit, noun use of adj.: solitary, equivalent to món(os) alone + -achos adj. suffix


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1. brother. Monk, friar refer to members of special male groups whose lives are devoted to the service of the church, especially in Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Orthodox denominations. A monk is properly a member of a monastery, under a superior; he is bound by a vow of stability, and is a co-owner of the community property of the monastery. Since the Reformation, monk and friar have been used as if they were the same. A friar is, however, strictly speaking, a member of a mendicant order, whose members are not attached to a monastery and own no community property.


  1. (James) ArthurArt, born 1957, U.S. football player.
  2. The·lo·ni·ous [thuh-loh-nee-uh s] /θəˈloʊ ni əs/(Sphere),1917–1982, U.S. jazz pianist and composer.
  3. George. Monck, George.
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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for monk

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • But Wyland, the monk, was a man of magic and could see through things.

    Welsh Fairy Tales

    William Elliott Griffis

  • The monk has bound two books for me in return for the art-wares which I gave him.

    Albert Durer

    T. Sturge Moore

  • They are all brothers, and are descended from the father of the Monk of the Yangtze-kiang.

  • Afterward the monk told the tale to the scholar who wrote it down.

  • Upon that the monk did not dare deceive him, but pointed to the hollow tree.

British Dictionary definitions for monk


  1. a male member of a religious community bound by vows of poverty, chastity, and obedienceRelated adjective: monastic
  2. (sometimes capital) a fancy pigeon having a bald pate and often large feathered feet
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Word Origin

Old English munuc, from Late Latin monachus, from Late Greek: solitary (man), from Greek monos alone


  1. Thelonious (Sphere) (θəˈləʊnɪəs). 1920–82, US jazz pianist and composer
  2. a variant spelling of (George) Monck
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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

Word Origin and History for monk


Old English munuc "monk" (used also of women), from Proto-Germanic *muniko- (cf. Old Frisian munek, Middle Dutch monic, Old High German munih, Ger. Mönch), an early borrowing from Vulgar Latin *monicus (source of French moine, Spanish monje, Italian monaco), from Late Latin monachus "monk," originally "religious hermit," from Ecclesiastical Greek monakhos "monk," noun use of a classical Greek adjective meaning "solitary," from monos "alone" (see mono-). For substitution of -o- for -u-, see come.

In England, before the Reformation, the term was not applied to the members of the mendicant orders, who were always called friars. From the 16th c. to the 19th c., however, it was usual to speak of the friars as a class of monks. In recent times the distinction between the terms has been carefully observed by well-informed writers. In French and Ger. the equivalent of monk is applied equally to 'monks' and 'friars.' [OED]
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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper