as·​cet·​ic | \ ə-ˈse-tik How to pronounce ascetic (audio) , a- \
variants: or less commonly ascetical \ ə-​ˈse-​ti-​kəl How to pronounce ascetical (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 ascetically (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 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 Akhadas are historically a male bastion, with no akhadas led by cisgender women and just a few women ascetic members in some groups. Priti Salian, National Geographic, "Transgender spiritual order finally finds acceptance at Hindu pilgrimage," 30 May 2019 By the 2010s, the shock had worn off as minimalist design became conflated with ascetic lifestyle fads promising self-improvement through self denial. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, "The Pandemic Has Made a Mockery of Minimalism," 23 Apr. 2020 As such, the public areas downstairs are decidedly ascetic, as were rural homes of the era. Tom Delavan, New York Times, "A Farmhouse Fantasy Tucked in the Woods of Upstate New York," 27 Feb. 2020 Quirky and austere, air plants achieve ascetic transcendence. Crispin Long, The New Yorker, "The Alien Minimalism of Air Plants," 18 Dec. 2019 The hermit was killed in 1869 in another part of New Mexico by unknown attackers and found with his crucifix in his hand, wearing a cilice—an ascetic’s spiked iron belt—that had been around his waist so long his skin had grown over it. Smithsonian, "The Inspiring Monk Who Lived in a New Mexico Cave," 22 Nov. 2019

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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Last Updated

16 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Ascetic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for ascetic


How to pronounce ascetic (audio)

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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More from Merriam-Webster on ascetic

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for ascetic

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with ascetic

Spanish Central: Translation of ascetic

Nglish: Translation of ascetic for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ascetic for Arabic Speakers

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