Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Ascetic

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is ascetic. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Ascetic is a formal word used to describe people or things that are markedly simple and restrained in appearance, manner, or attitude. Its original meaning, still in use, is “practicing strict self-denial as a measure of personal and especially spiritual discipline,” as in “an asceticmonk.” 

// On her first visit to Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes, she immediately fell in love with their ascetic, windswept beauty.

// His choice to lead such an ascetic lifestyle was at first in defiance of the conspicuous consumption of modern society, but it had the added benefit of bringing him great inner peace.

ASCETIC in Context

“[T. S.] Eliot’s bedroom was flamboyantly ascetic: a single bed, an ebony crucifix, a bare lightbulb hanging from a chain.” — Michael Dirda, The Washington Post, 28 Sept. 2022

Did You Know?

If you’ve been refraining from adding ascetic to your vocabulary, it’s time to let your hair down and live a little! In other words, be the opposite of ascetic. Ascetic comes from askētikos, a Greek adjective meaning “laborious,” and its earliest meaning in English implies the labor involved in abstention from pleasure, comfort, and self-indulgence as a spiritual discipline. These days, ascetic is also used to describe anyone or anything demonstrating marked restraint, plainness, or simplicity, even when no appeals to the divine or spiritual are attached, making it not unlike another adjective with connections to ancient Greece: spartan.

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Leave a Reply