ton·​sure | \ ˈtän(t)-shər How to pronounce tonsure (audio) \

Definition of tonsure

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : the Roman Catholic or Eastern rite of admission to the clerical state by the clipping or shaving of a portion of the head
2 : the shaven crown or patch worn by monks and other clerics
3 : a bald spot resembling a tonsure


tonsured; tonsuring\ ˈtän(t)-​sh(ə-​)riŋ How to pronounce tonsure (audio) \

Definition of tonsure (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to shave the head of especially : to confer the tonsure upon

Examples of tonsure in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Instead, its hair is black, like mine, and raggedly scuttles onto his forehead like the tonsure of a Tibetan yak left out in the rain. Washington Post, "Gene Weingarten: Leggo my Lego," 9 July 2020

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

First Known Use of tonsure


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1706, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for tonsure


Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Medieval Latin tonsura, from Latin, act of shearing, from tonsus, past participle of tondēre to shear — more at tome

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Time Traveler for tonsure

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The first known use of tonsure was in the 14th century

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Cite this Entry

“Tonsure.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Jan. 2021.

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How to pronounce tonsure (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of tonsure

: a round, shaved area on the top of a priest's or monk's head

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