ath-, athl-

(Greek: struggle, a contest [in war or in sports], to contend for a prize; physical activity, rigorous self-discipline or training)

ascesis (s) (noun) (no plural)
1. Rigorous self-denial and active self-restraint.
2. The act of denying oneself; controlling one's impulses.
3. Etymology: from Late Latin, which came from Greek askēsis; literally, "exercise", from Greek askein.
ascetic (s) (noun), ascetics (pl)
1. The practice of self-denial or severe self-discipline for religious reasons: Historians report that many of the early Christian leaders were extreme ascetics who denied themselves normal physical pleasures and dedicated their lives to serving God.
2. A person who renounces material comforts and leads a life of austere self-discipline; especially, as an act of religious devotion: There have been ascetics who have devoted their lives to God with prayer, fasting, and consecration or solemn commitment to helping those who were in need of spiritual and physical help.
3. Etymology: used since about 1646, from Greek asketikos, "rigorously self-disciplined", from asketes, "monk, hermit"; from askein, "to exercise, to train"; originally, "to train for athletic competition, to practice gymnastics, to exercise".

The noun meaning "one of the early Christians who retired to the desert to live solitary lives of meditation and prayer" is from 1673.

Ascetic actually goes back to Greek asketes, "an athlete in training". The Greek word for athletic training is askesis, and from it we get ascesis, which means "rigorous self-discipline" or "training".

Very much the same thing is denoted by "asceticism", which was first used in English by Sir Thomas Browne in 1646.

A person who devotes himself or herself to religious activities.
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ascetic (adjective), more ascetic, most ascetic
Pertaining to or characteristic of the practice of rigorous self-discipline.
asceticism (s) (noun) (no plural)
1. The principles and practices of an extreme self-denial form of life.
2. The doctrine that the rigorous self-denial, abstinence form of life releases the soul from bondage to the body and permits a union with the divine.

Originally, an ascetic was someone who practiced the mode of life of a hermit or a monk, characterized by solitude, meditation, prayer, toil, fasting, and celibacy.

Implicit in this lifestyle of self-discipline and self-denial is the idea that the pleasures of this world should be renounced in favor of a "higher" purpose; such as, intellectual discipline or spiritual insight.

athlete (s) (noun), athletes (pl)
1. A person possessing the natural or acquired traits, such as strength, agility, and endurance, that are necessary for physical exercise or sports, especially those performed in competitive contests.
2. Someone who is trained or gifted in exercises or contests involving physical agility, stamina, or strength; a participant in a sport, exercise, or game requiring physical skill.
athletic (adjective), more athletic, most athletic
1. Characterized by or involving physical activity or exertion; active: "She had an athletic lifestyle for most of her life."
2. Physically strong and well-developed; muscular: "Brent was an actor with an athletic physique."
athleticism (s) (noun) (no plural form)
1. Intense energy.
2. Skill in running, jumping, throwing, etc.
biathlon (s) (noun), biathlons (pl)
1. A contest in which cross-country skiers, carrying rifles, shoot at targets at four stops along a 12.5-mi. (20 km) course.
2. An athletic contest comprising of any two consecutive events.
decathlete (s) (noun), decathletes (pl)
An athlete who takes part in or trains chiefly for an athletic contest which consists of ten events that include: the 100-meter, 400-meter, and 1,500-meter runs; the 110-meter high hurdles; the discus and javelin throws; the shot put; the pole vault; the high jump; and the long jump.
decathlon (s) (noun), decathlons (pl)
An athletic contest consisting of ten different track-and-field events and won by the contestant having the highest total score.
heptathlon (s) (noun), heptathlons (pl) (nouns)
An athletic contest for women comprising seven different track-and-field events and won by the contestant accumulating the highest total score: "The heptahlon includes the following seven track and field events: 200-meter and 800-meter runs, 100-meter hurdles, a shot put, the javelin throw, a high jump, and the long jump."
pentathlete (s) (noun), pentathletes (pl)
An athlete who competes, or specializes in a contest consisting of five different sport's events.
pentathlon (s) (noun), pentathlons (pl)
An athletic contest consisting of five different track and field events and won by the contestant who achieves the highest total score.
triathlete (s) (noun), triathletes (pl)
An athlete who competes without stopping, in three successive events, usually long-distance swimming, bicycling, and running.
triathlon (s) (noun), triathlons (pl)
An intense athletic-endurance competition in which all participants must swim, ride a bicycle, and run particular distances without stopping between each of the events.