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cilice (SIL-is) noun

1. An undergarment of haircloth, worn by monks in penance.
2. Haircloth.

[From Old English cilic, from Latin cilicium, from Greek kilikion, from kilikios (Cilician). This cloth was originally made of Cilician goats' hair. Cilicia was an ancient region in southeast Asia Minor which later became part of the Roman Empire. It's now part of southern Turkey.]

No more hairy undergarments now -- modern cilices are usually made of wires and studded with spikes.

Another word that came from the same region is solecism (an error). It's derived from the name of Soloi, a city in Cilicia.

"Wearing the cilice, (Louise) Heil said, helps people learn to care less about their own comfort and more about helping other people."
David Holley; Founder of Opus Dei Becomes Newest Saint; The Los Angeles Times; Oct 7, 2002.

"He (Silas) wears a cilice, a thong that cuts flesh, around his thigh, and he flagellates himself bloody as part of a self-purification cult in accordance to Opus Dei guidelines."
Joseph P Szimhart; Fact, Fiction, and Strained Symbolism; Skeptical Inquirer (Amherst, New York); May 2004.

This week's theme: Toponyms (words derived from the names of places)


The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts. -Bertrand Russell, philosopher, mathematician, author, Nobel laureate (1872-1970)

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