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hair shirt

noun
1.
a garment of coarse haircloth, worn next to the skin as a penance by ascetics and penitents.
2.
self-imposed punishment, suffering, sacrifice, or penance.
Origin
1350-1400
1350-1400; cf. hair
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for hair-shirt

hair shirt

noun
1.
a shirt made of haircloth worn next to the skin as a penance
2.
a secret trouble or affliction
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 hair-shirt
n.

garment of ascetics and penitents, 1680s, from hair + shirt. Figurative use by 1884. Earlier, such a garment was called simply a hair.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Idioms and Phrases with hair-shirt

hair shirt

A self-imposed punishment or penance, as in I apologized a dozen times—do you want me to wear a hair shirt forever? This term, mentioned from the 13th century on, alludes to wearing a coarse, scratchy hair shirt, the practice of religious ascetics. Its figurative use dates from the mid-1800s.
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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