as·​cet·​ic | \ ə-ˈse-tik How to pronounce ascetic (audio) , a- \
variants: or less commonly ascetical \ ə-​ˈse-​ti-​kəl How to pronounce ascetic (audio) \

Definition of ascetic

1 : practicing strict self-denial as a measure of personal and especially spiritual discipline an ascetic monk an ascetic diet
2 : austere in appearance, manner, or attitude

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Other Words from ascetic

ascetic noun
ascetically \ ə-​ˈse-​ti-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce ascetic (audio) \ adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for ascetic

severe, stern, austere, ascetic mean given to or marked by strict discipline and firm restraint. severe implies standards enforced without indulgence or laxity and may suggest harshness. severe military discipline stern stresses inflexibility and inexorability of temper or character. stern arbiters of public morality austere stresses absence of warmth, color, or feeling and may apply to rigorous restraint, simplicity, or self-denial. living an austere life in the country ascetic implies abstention from pleasure and comfort or self-indulgence as spiritual discipline. the ascetic life of the monks

Did You Know?

Ascetic comes from "askētikos," a Greek adjective meaning "laborious," and ultimately traces back to the Greek verb askein, which means "exercise" or "work." There aren't many other English words from "askein," but there's no dearth of synonyms for "ascetic." "Severe" and "austere," for example, are two words that share with "ascetic" the basic meaning "given to or marked by strict discipline and firm restraint." "Ascetic" implies abstention from pleasure, comfort, or self-indulgence as a spiritual discipline, whereas "severe" implies standards enforced without indulgence or laxity and may suggest harshness (as in "severe military discipline"). "Austere" stresses absence of warmth, color, or feeling and may apply to rigorous restraint, simplicity, or self-denial (as in "living an austere life in the country").

Examples of ascetic in a Sentence

Patterson's collection begins on the walls of the stairway to his basement. "That's where Cindy draws the line. That's probably a real good idea," he says. Mattsson, ascetic for a bachelor, imposes the same rule on himself. LeBeau, who has never been married, is much less restrained. — Tom Harpole, Air & Space, December 1999/January 2000 By Hollywood standards, Calley's career path may seem enigmatic, but then, so is his personality. If Mark Canton, the previous Sony president, was the boastful, Armani-clad big spender, Calley is downright ascetic, a man who disdains Hollywood profligacy. — Peter Bart, GQ, August 1997 He converted to Catholicism and, after a long period of intense self-questioning, became a Trappist monk at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky, which, at the time, was as ascetic and demanding as any monastery of the Middle Ages. — Julius Lester, Falling Pieces of the Broken Sky, 1990
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Recent Examples on the Web Machiavelli was 24 at the fall of the Medici in 1494 and lived through the subsequent de facto rule of Florence by the ascetic Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola. National Geographic, "Machiavelli exposed the brutal truth about politics in a 'tell-all' treatise," 22 Oct. 2020 The king, who liked his entertainments, took along a bevy of dancing courtesans and musicians, in violation of the ascetic traditions of the pilgrimage. Douglas Preston, The New Yorker, "The Skeletons at the Lake," 7 Dec. 2020 The English ascetic Flinders Petrie, who in 1888 discovered the exquisite Greco-Egyptian portrait heads at Fayum, trimmed his budget. Dominic Green, WSJ, "‘A World Beneath the Sands’ Review: Pyramid Fever," 23 Oct. 2020 The result is an ascetic style, well suited to both evisceration and incantation. Katy Waldman, The New Yorker, "Louise Glück, Whisperer of the Seasons," 15 Oct. 2020 Plain patients, despite their apparently ascetic lifestyles, have average household incomes roughly similar to those of Americans in general. Jackson Williams, STAT, "Seeing the ‘deep pocket’ effect when insurers pay for health care," 31 Aug. 2020 Some albums demand ascetic listening, the kind that happens best in solitude or while wearing noise-canceling headphones. Hannah Giorgis, The Atlantic, "The Unfinished Business of a Young Rap Star," 7 July 2020 They were hidden in jars in caves near Qumran, home to members of an ascetic Jewish sect called the Essenes. Andrew Lawler, National Geographic, "Ancient DNA offers clues to physical origins of Dead Sea Scrolls," 2 June 2020 Who hasn’t dreamed of extracting themselves from all obligation, moving to a remote island, throwing their cell phone into the ocean, and leading a life of ascetic satisfaction? Carrie Battan, The New Yorker, "The Italian Supermodel Who Was Already Hiding in Her Apartment," 30 Apr. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ascetic.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of ascetic

1646, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for ascetic

Greek askētikos, literally, laborious, from askētēs one that exercises, hermit, from askein to work, exercise

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Time Traveler for ascetic

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The first known use of ascetic was in 1646

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Cite this Entry

“Ascetic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Mar. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of ascetic

formal : relating to or having a strict and simple way of living that avoids physical pleasure

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