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[ton-sher] /ˈtɒn ʃər/
the act of cutting the hair or shaving the head.
the shaving of the head or of some part of it as a religious practice or rite, especially in preparation for entering the priesthood or a monastic order.
the part of a cleric's head, usually the crown, left bare by shaving the hair.
the state of being shorn.
verb (used with object), tonsured, tonsuring.
to confer the ecclesiastical tonsure upon.
to subject to tonsure.
1350-1400; Middle English < Latin tōnsūra a shearing, equivalent to tōns(us) (past participle of tondēre to shear, clip, shave) + -ūra -ure
Related forms
untonsured, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for tonsure
  • She soon after took the religious veil, and he received the clerical tonsure.
British Dictionary definitions for tonsure


(in certain religions and monastic orders)
  1. the shaving of the head or the crown of the head only
  2. the part of the head left bare by shaving
  3. the state of being shaven thus
(transitive) to shave the head of
Derived Forms
tonsured, adjective
Word Origin
C14: from Latin tōnsūra a clipping, from tondēre to shave
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for tonsure

late 14c., "shaving of the head or part of it as a religious rite," from Anglo-French tonsure (mid-14c.), from Old French tonsure (14c.), from Latin tonsura "a shearing, clipping," from tonsus, past participle of tondere "to shear, shave," from PIE *tend-, from root *tem- "to cut" (see tome). The verb is attested from 1793. Related: Tonsured; tonsuring.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Encyclopedia Article for tonsure

in various religions, a ceremony of initiation in which hair is clipped from the head as part of the ritual marking one's entrance into a new stage of religious development or activity

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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