• synonyms


  1. the act of cutting the hair or shaving the head.
  2. the shaving of the head or of some part of it as a religious practice or rite, especially in preparation for entering the priesthood or a monastic order.
  3. the part of a cleric's head, usually the crown, left bare by shaving the hair.
  4. the state of being shorn.
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verb (used with object), ton·sured, ton·sur·ing.
  1. to confer the ecclesiastical tonsure upon.
  2. to subject to tonsure.
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Origin of tonsure

1350–1400; Middle English < Latin tōnsūra a shearing, equivalent to tōns(us) (past participle of tondēre to shear, clip, shave) + -ūra -ure
Related formsun·ton·sured, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for tonsure

Historical Examples of tonsure

  • We have as much to fear from the tonsure as from the hauberk.

    The White Company

    Arthur Conan Doyle

  • But the tonsure had then been very small, hardly larger than a penny.

  • In the Old Testament it is permitted to no priest to wear the tonsure.

  • Although he was an archbishop he had only the first tonsure.

    Lucretia Borgia

    Ferdinand Gregorovius

  • The mark of his tonsure was next removed, and that with great cruelty.

British Dictionary definitions for tonsure


  1. (in certain religions and monastic orders)
    1. the shaving of the head or the crown of the head only
    2. the part of the head left bare by shaving
    3. the state of being shaven thus
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  1. (tr) to shave the head of
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Derived Formstonsured, adjective

Word Origin for tonsure

C14: from Latin tōnsūra a clipping, from tondēre to shave
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 tonsure


late 14c., "shaving of the head or part of it as a religious rite," from Anglo-French tonsure (mid-14c.), from Old French tonsure (14c.), from Latin tonsura "a shearing, clipping," from tonsus, past participle of tondere "to shear, shave," from PIE *tend-, from root *tem- "to cut" (see tome). The verb is attested from 1793. Related: Tonsured; tonsuring.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper