Definition of tonsure in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈtɒnʃə/


1A part of a monk’s or priest’s head left bare on top by shaving off the hair: his hair is thinning up there—soon he’ll have a tonsure like a monk’s
More 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: he received the tonsure
More 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)
Give a tonsure to: Louis’s half-brothers were tonsured and sent away to monasteries
More example sentences
  • Buddhist monks shaved the heads of ceremony leaders, while many other Dalits arrived having already tonsured their heads.
  • Whilst reading the papers before lunch with some friends, I was asked if I knew what it meant to be tonsured.
  • They had also brought both sons here to be tonsured for the first time, an important Hindu rite.


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

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