In Christianity, the term was originally applied to a Christian who lives the eremitic life out of a religious conviction, namely the Desert Theology of the Old Testament (i.e., the forty years wandering in the desert that was meant to bring about a change of heart).
In the Christian tradition the eremitic life is an early form of monastic living that preceded the monastic life in the cenobium. The Rule of St Benedict (ch. 1) lists hermits among four kinds of monks. In addition to hermits that are members of religious orders, modern Roman Catholic Church law (canon 603) recognizes also consecrated hermits under the direction of their diocesan bishop as members of the Consecrated Life.
Often, both in religious and secular literature, the term "hermit" is used loosely for anyone living a solitary life-style, including the misanthrope, and in religious contexts is sometimes assumed to be interchangeable with anchorite / anchoress (from the Greek ἀναχωρέω anachōreō, signifying "to withdraw", "to depart into the country outside the circumvallate city"), recluse and solitary. However, it is important to retain a clear distinction between the vocation of hermits and that of anchorites.