Definition of tonsure in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈtän(t)SHər/


1A part of a monk’s or priest’s head left bare on top by shaving off the hair.
Example sentences
  • My hair was long as it always had been; our order didn't endorse tonsures, thank God.
  • His cowl had fallen back, exposing his tonsure.
  • His dark hair lay cropped close to his head like a monk's tonsure and his small black eyes sat deep within their sockets like tiny pieces of coal buried in a lump of snow.
1.1 [in singular] An act of shaving the top of a monk’s or priest’s head as a preparation for entering a religious order.
Example sentences
  • At that time Nimmyo's mother, Dowager Empress Saga, took the tonsure and entered a temple.
  • Yet Jacques Daret had been tutored as a child and was a trained cleric who received his tonsure from the bishop of Cambrai in 1423.


[with object] (often as adjective tonsured)
Shave the hair on the crown of.
Example sentences
  • The second presents Augustine as a tonsured monk in an austere cell, working with a quill on a small book.
  • The unsubmerged halves of the smooth stones at the water's edge - covered with patches of dark moss - looked like the tonsured heads of drowned monks.
  • A tonsured man in red appeared in the open doorway, offering us each a glass of red wine.


Late Middle English: from Old French, or from Latin tonsura, from tondere 'shear, clip'.

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