/ton"sheuhr/, n., v., tonsured, tonsuring.
1. the act of cutting the hair or shaving the head.
2. the shaving of the head or of some part of it as a religious practice or rite, esp. in preparation for entering the priesthood or a monastic order.
3. the part of a cleric's head, usually the crown, left bare by shaving the hair.
4. the state of being shorn.
5. to confer the ecclesiastical tonsure upon.
6. to subject to tonsure.
[1350-1400; ME < L tonsura a shearing, equiv. to tons(us) (ptp. of tondere to shear, clip, shave) + -ura -URE]

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▪ religious ceremony
      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.

      Tonsure has been used in both the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox churches on occasions of solemn personal dedication to God. Until it was abolished by Pope Paul VI (effective in 1973), tonsure was the ceremony by which a man was initiated into the clerical state and became eligible for ordination to the priesthood. In the Eastern Orthodox church tonsure is part of the ordination of the lector (reader). In certain of the Eastern churches tonsure has also been a part of the ceremony admitting a man to the monastic life. The origins of the Christian use of this rite are not clear, but early Christian ascetics may have imitated the ancient religious practice among the Greeks and Semites that involved the cutting of some of the hair and offering it to a deity as a sign of dedication.

      Three tonsures have been more or less in use in the Christian churches. The Roman, or St. Peter's, tonsure involved the shaving either of the whole head, with the exception of a fringe of hair supposed to symbolize the crown of thorns, or of a small round area at the crown of the head. In the Greek (Eastern, or St. Paul's) tonsure the whole head was shaved, but the more recent practice in the Eastern church has considered the tonsure adequate when the hair is merely shorn close. In the Celtic tonsure (tonsure of St. John, or, in contempt, of Simon Magus) all the hair in front of a line drawn over the top of the head from ear to ear was shaved.

      In Buddhism tonsure is performed as a part of the ceremony of ordination as a novice (pravrajyā ceremony) and as a monk (upasaṃpadā ceremony). Thereafter, the monk keeps his head and face clean-shaven. In Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand most male children undergo the pravrajyā ceremony at about the age of eight or older and spend a few days or months in a monastery; the rite of tonsure is a principal part of the ceremony.

      Jaina monks also cut their hair as a sign of renouncing the worldly life and entering the monkhood, traditionally, by plucking out the hairs one by one. Both Jaina and Buddhist customs are theoretically in imitation of the act performed by their teachers Mahāvīra and Gautama, who cut off their hair upon leaving their households to embark on the spiritual life.

      In Hinduism the first tonsure undergone by a young boy (the ceremony of cūḍākaraṇa) is one of the saṃskāras, or personal sacraments, that mark the boy's transition from an infant to a child. It is usually performed when the boy is about two years old. The Hindu tonsure leaves a tuft of hair (the cūḍa) at the crown of the head. Tonsure formerly marked other rites of passage for the Hindu, such as the putting on of the sacred thread or the change of ritual status incurred by the death of the father (customs now largely observed only symbolically). Full tonsure is performed as part of the initiation rite into most Hindu ascetic orders.

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Universalium. 2010.

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  • Tonsure — • A sacred rite instituted by the Church by which a baptized and confirmed Christian is received into the clerical order Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Tonsure     Tonsure      …   Catholic encyclopedia

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  • tonsuré — tonsuré, ée (ton su ré, rée) part. passé de tonsurer. •   Je demande un petit bénéfice au roi pour un fils de Mme de Montchevreuil qui a quinze ans, qui est tonsuré, MAINTENON Lett. à l abbé Gobelin, 1676, t. II, p. 57, dans POUGENS..… …   Dictionnaire de la Langue Française d'Émile Littré

  • tonsure — (n.) 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 root… …   Etymology dictionary

  • tonsuré — Tonsuré. part. passif. Clerc tonsuré …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie française

  • tonsure — ► NOUN ▪ a part of a monk s or priest s head left bare on top by shaving off the hair. ► VERB ▪ give a tonsure to. ORIGIN Latin tonsura, from tondere shear, clip …   English terms dictionary

  • Tonsure — Ton sure, n. [F., fr. L. tonsura a shearing, clipping, from tondere, tonsum, to shear, shave; cf. Gr. ? to gnaw; perhaps akin to Gr. ? to cut, and E. tome.] 1. The act of clipping the hair, or of shaving the crown of the head; also, the state of… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • tonsure — [tän′shər] n. [ME < MFr < L tonsura < tonsus: see TONSORIAL] 1. a clipping off or shaving off of part or all of the hair of the head, done esp. formerly as a signal of entrance into the clerical or monastic state 2. the head area so… …   English World dictionary

  • Tonsure — Roman tonsure Tonsure is the traditional practice of Christian churches of cutting or shaving the hair from the scalp of clerics, monastics, and, in the Eastern Orthodox Church, all baptized members. Tonsure, usually qualified by the name of the… …   Wikipedia

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