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One of an ancient sect of Hindu ascetics who wore little or no clothing and were devoted to mystical contemplation.

[Middle English gumnosophist, from sing. of Latin gymnosophistae, from Greek gumnosophistai : gumnos, naked; see nogw- in Indo-European roots + sophistēs, expert; see sophist.]
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


(dʒɪmˈnɒsəfɪst) or


(Philosophy) one of a sect of naked Indian ascetics who regarded food or clothing as detrimental to purity of thought
[C16: from Latin gymnosophistae, from Greek gumnosophistai naked philosophers]
gymˈnosophy n
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014


(dʒɪmˈnɒs ə fɪst)

a member of an ascetic sect, esp. in ancient India, whose adherents wore little or no clothing.
[1400–50; late Middle English < Latin gymnosophistae < Greek gymnosophistaí naked philosophers. See gymno-, sophist]
gym•nos′o•phy, n.
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.gymnosophist - member of a Hindu sect practicing gymnosophy (especially nudism)
philosopher - a specialist in philosophy
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References in classic literature ?
I am a knight-errant, and not one of those whose names Fame has never thought of immortalising in her record, but of those who, in defiance and in spite of envy itself, and all the magicians that Persia, or Brahmans that India, or Gymnosophists that Ethiopia ever produced, will place their names in the temple of immortality, to serve as examples and patterns for ages to come, whereby knights-errant may see the footsteps in which they must tread if they would attain the summit and crowning point of honour in arms."
Carlyle refers to Emerson's interest in the subject in a letter of May 1852 in which he registers his "dissent from your Gymnosophist view of Heaven and Earth" (CL 27:107-9) In his essay on Emerson, Matthew Arnold prints the following previously unpublished poem by Oliver Wendell Holmes (Arnold calls it "ingenious and interesting," but one suspects that it would not have met his exacting standards for a truly good poem):
"At her birth, Charicleia, daughter of the King and Queen of Ethiopia, is secretly given by her mother to a gymnosophist priest, Sisimithres, who eventually gives the child to Charicles, a priest of the Pythian Apollo at Delphi.
(8) Charicles, priest of Apollo, Calasiris, an Egyptian prophet, and Sisimithres, an Ethiopian gymnosophist, all function as stepfathers for the heroine Chariclea before she is reunited at the climax of the novel with her biological father, King Hydaspes, as well as with Charicles and Sisimithres.
Epictetus's sage, like the Cynic Heraclitus and the gymnosophist Dandamis, considers himself to be engaged in an intimate relationship with this single theistic entity standing in close relationship to nature, but not fully identified with the cosmos itself.
Ghandi once described cruelty to animals as "the blackest of all crimes", but Ghandi was a gymnosophist (member of a Hindu sect devoted to contemplation) and most of us don't have the luxury to devote our lives to meditative issues as he did.
Yet in the story his assigned function, in which he dies, is that of prophet and though he is in communication with the gymnosophist Sisimithres, the difference is that the gymnosophists are assuredly philosophers (an exotic offspring of the Alexander saga).
Fearing suspicion of adultery, the queen tells her husband that the baby died at birth, but instructs one of the gymnosophists to hide the infant.
The Gymnosophists of the post-Alexandrian epoch were indeed the Indian thinkers both as they regarded the world and themselves.
The account begins with a journey Alexander made to Africa.35 Along the way he encounters the Gymnosophists (or the "Sages of the South"),(36) reaches the Mountains of Darkness, uses ropes to help trace his route (recalling, perhaps, the Quranic asbab), and encounters a land inhabited only by women (the Amazons in the Greek version of the Alexander Romance).
His first encounter is with the Gymnosophists (here incorrectly called Bragmans), who live in poverty and meditation.