hair shirt


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hair shirt

1. An uncomfortable garment made of coarse hair or other material worn against the skin. Used in some religious rituals as punishment or penance. In ancient times, men would wear a hair shirt as a sign of repentance to their deity for wrongs they had done.
2. By extension, something a person does to intentionally make an aspect of their life uncomfortable or unpleasant, often as a form of penance. I understand that you are sorry for your actions, but there is no need to wear a hair shirt because of it. All is forgiven. A: "Why aren't you eating dessert?" B: "Oh, it's my punishment—my hair shirt, if you will—for blowing off my schoolwork this week."
See also: hair, shirt

hair shirt

A self-imposed punishment or penance, as in I apologized a dozen times-do you want me to wear a hair shirt forever? This term, mentioned from the 13th century on, alludes to wearing a coarse, scratchy hair shirt, the practice of religious ascetics. Its figurative use dates from the mid-1800s.
See also: hair, shirt

a hair shirt

If someone is wearing a hair shirt, they are deliberately making their life unpleasant or uncomfortable, especially because they feel guilty about something. No one is asking you to wear a hair shirt and give up all your luxuries. Note: Hair-shirt can also be used before a noun. Why adopt such a hair-shirt response to economic difficulty when there are so much more appropriate and comfortable alternatives? Note: In the past, hair shirts were very rough, uncomfortable shirts made from horsehair. People sometimes wore them for religious reasons, to show that they were truly sorry for their sins.
See also: hair, shirt

hair shirt

A self-imposed act of atonement. The wearing of shirts made of unprocessed animal hair or a rough cloth next to the skin dates back to biblical days. The purpose of such an uncomfortable garment was as an expression of faith, a constant reminder that the wearer's sinful flesh was inconsequential compared to a commitment to God. Some members of the nobility wore hair shirts to compensate for the luxury with which they surrounded themselves. Although such mortification of the flesh is rare these days, “hair shirt” survives as a metaphor for self-imposed penitence. A basketball player who takes cold showers for the next month as penance after missing what would have been a game-winning shot has chosen to wear, as it were, a liquid hair shirt.
See also: hair, shirt
References in periodicals archive ?
Contrary to the German king, Bibi I did not walk barefoot in the snow, did not exchange his expensive suit for a hair shirt and did not forgo his sumptuous meals.
Still wearing his hair shirt, More sang hymns, fasted on the appointed days, meditated on Christ's passion, and wrote in his journal.
Under Goudge's attentions, Francis's turn toward contemplative life becomes an impressive story of self-denial: he leaves his family, wealth, and comfort, donning a hair shirt and borrowed clothes and weeping over the grandeur of Christ.
The Vitara has never been bad in the rough but, like buying a hair shirt for judicial enquiries and wearing it to drinks parties, a price was paid in everyday use.
Perish the thought, comrade, we're not here for self-aggrandisement - though for me he seems to wear that self-imposed hair shirt rather too comfortably.
It also comes after politicians attempt to work together to plan for December's hair shirt Budget failed miserably just days ago.
Mr Carter may feel that he deserves to wear a hair shirt.
But there are still ways to make our habits less harmful without donning the hair shirt.
So, as I prepare for a new life of finger-pointing rather than repenting, I'll don the Feedback office hair shirt in preparation of my weekly self flag ellation.
He was RIGHT to dismiss the doom merchants who wanted him to wear a hair shirt because the result went against us.
I see the insults as the wearing of a hair shirt, a brief moment of fashion torment before that wonderful fashion baptism
The tramp's voice is the hair shirt of the unbeautiful worn hidden beneath the beautiful.
When he does take the blame, it is grandiose -- a kind of self-flagellation with hair shirt.
Just off to put on my hair shirt before I change the DVD.
But yesterday was the day the Bank sent its hair shirt to the laundry, so why spoil the fun?