late 14c., "shaving of the head or part of it as a religious rite," from Anglo-Fr. tonsure (mid-14c.), from O.Fr. tonsure (14c.), from L. tonsura "a shearing, clipping," from tonsus, pp. of tondere "to shear, shave," from PIE *tend-, from base *tem- "to cut" (see tome). The verb is attested from 1793.