HERMIT, a solitary, one who withdraws from all intercourse with other human beings in order to live a life of religious contemplation, and so marked off from a " coenobite " ( Gr. KOIVOS, common, and ftios, life), one who shares this life of withdrawal with others in a community (see ASCETICISM and MONASTICISM). The word " hermit " is an adaptation through the O. Fr. ermite or hermite, from the Lat. form, eremite, of the Gr. pe/ur7;s, a solitary, from ^prjfua, a desert. The English form " eremite," which was used, according to the New English Dictionary, quite indiscriminately with " hermit " till the middle of the 17th century, is now chiefly used in poetry or rhetorically, except with reference to the early hermits of the Libyan desert, or sometimes to such particular orders as the erejnites of St Augustine (see AUGUSTINIAN HERMITS). Another synonym is " anchoret " or " anchorite." This comes through the French and Latin forms from the Gr. avaxcaoriTris, from avaxuptw, to withdraw. A form nearer to the Greek original, " anachoret," is sometimes used of the early Christian recluses in the East.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)