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 \ -​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

For some years, Lang has been fruitfully mining a distinctive vein of work: vocal-instrumental music that’s both lyrical and ascetic, with instruments offsetting graceful, short vocal lines. Washington Post, "Reexamining opera, one classic at a time," 14 June 2019 Mateusz Oswiecki, an ascetic Polish assassin, flees an omniscient and shadowy entity, while the aging Holocaust survivor David de Vriend stews in a retirement home. Time, ""Review: The E.U. Is Unraveling. 'The Capital' Gets That Better Than Most"," 13 June 2019 His face wears an expression of ascetic, mortified severity, far from all charity or compassion. Amos Oz, Harper's magazine, "Setting the World to Rights," 10 Apr. 2019 Duse was more ascetic, with her dark, brooding look. Rachel Shteir, WSJ, "‘Playing to the Gods’ Review: Avatars of Female Anguish," 23 Aug. 2018 His beguiling, feather-light fantasy follows Michelangelo’s reluctant immersion into the wonders of the city, a far more sensuous place than the ascetic artist has known in Italy. Sam Sacks, WSJ, "Fiction: A Critical Mass of Absurdist Misapprehensions," 30 Nov. 2018 Egypt, the birthplace of Christian monasticism, is home to some of the world's most ancient monasteries, nestled in the country's barren desert and which have drawn monks for centuries to lead solitary ascetic lives. Fox News, "Egypt prosecutors order ex-monk detained over abbot death," 11 Aug. 2018 Beckett’s work was famously free from concerns with conventional storytelling and unafraid of silence, spare to the point of ascetic. Kathleen Rooney, New York Times, "Three Literary Critics Who Engage With Their Subjects, Unconventionally," 27 Apr. 2018 Meanwhile, Buddhist priests denounce the excess surrounding a festival commemorating a man who shunned his family fortune for an ascetic life, saying the waste around Vesak has become too much. Maria Abi-habib, New York Times, "How to Celebrate Buddha in Sri Lanka? Stop Partying, Some Say," 2 May 2018

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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Last Updated

7 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for ascetic

The first known use of ascetic was in 1646

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More Definitions for ascetic



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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with ascetic

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for 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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