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[uh-set-ik] /əˈsɛt ɪk/
a person who dedicates his or her life to a pursuit of contemplative ideals and practices extreme self-denial or self-mortification for religious reasons.
a person who leads an austerely simple life, especially one who abstains from the normal pleasures of life or denies himself or herself material satisfaction.
(in the early Christian church) a monk; hermit.
adjective, Also, ascetical
relating to asceticism, the doctrine that one can reach a high spiritual state through the practice of extreme self-denial or self-mortification.
rigorously abstinent; austere:
an ascetic existence.
exceedingly strict or severe in religious exercises or self-mortification.
Origin of ascetic
1640-50; < Greek askētikós subject to rigorous exercise, hardworking, equivalent to askē- (see askesis) + -tikos -tic
Related forms
ascetically, adverb
nonascetic, noun, adjective
nonascetical, adjective
nonascetically, adverb
preascetic, adjective
pseudoascetic, adjective
pseudoascetical, adjective
pseudoascetically, adverb
unascetic, adjective
unascetically, adverb
Can be confused
acetic, aesthetic, ascetic.
3. anchorite, recluse; cenobite. 5. strict, frugal, plain. 6. fanatic.
5. self-indulgent. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for ascetic
  • But it wasn't exactly an ascetic life.
  • His policies had failed, but people admired his sincerity and his ascetic life.
  • It's just that its aesthetic is more ascetic, thinner.
  • He renounced his kingdom and embraced instead the path of the ascetic.
  • He can appear ascetic and stiff.
  • Local merchants dislike them because, with their ascetic ways, they are poor customers.
  • And imagine that, he didn't care but went into the forest as an ascetic.
  • Not even a figure as ascetic as Coltrane developed his art in isolation.
  • He knew so little of the real life of these neophytes as never to suspect that their conduct and character were far from ascetic.
  • Our saint inured himself from his infancy, whilst he lived in his father's house, to all the exercises of a severe ascetic life.
British Dictionary definitions for ascetic


a person who practises great self-denial and austerities and abstains from worldly comforts and pleasures, esp for religious reasons
(in the early Christian Church) a monk
rigidly abstinent or abstemious; austere
of or relating to ascetics or asceticism
intensely rigorous in religious austerities
Derived Forms
ascetically, adverb
Word Origin
C17: from Greek askētikos, from askētēs, from askein to exercise
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
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Word Origin and History for ascetic

1640s, from Greek asketikos "rigorously self-disciplined, laborious," from asketes "monk, hermit," earlier "one who practices an art or trade," from askein "to exercise, train," originally "to train for athletic competition, practice gymnastics, exercise."


"one of the early Christians who retired to the desert to live solitary lives of meditation and prayer," 1670s, from ascetic (adj.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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