A cell is a small room used by a hermit, monk, nun or anchorite to live and as a devotional space. Cells are often part of larger cenobitic monastic communities such as Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican and Orthodox Christian monasteries, as well as Buddhist vihara, but may also form stand-alone structures in remote locations. The word cell comes from the Old French celle meaning a monastic cell, itself from the Latin meaning "room", "store room" or "chamber".
Usually, a cell is small and contains a minimum of furnishings. It may be an individual living space in a building or a hermit's primitive solitary living space, possibly a cave or hut in a remote location. A small dependent or daughter house of a major monastery, sometimes housing just one or two monks or nuns, may also be termed a cell.
The first cells were in the Nitrian Desert in Egypt following the ministry of Paul of Thebes, Serapion, and Anthony the Great. in the mid 3rd century.
In some orders, such as the Trappists, the monks or nuns do not have cells but sleep in a large room called a dormitory. In eremitic orders like the Carthusians, the room called cell usually has the size and look of a small house with a separate garden.
See also: Monastery § Buddhism
In Buddhism, a vihara was a living arrangement similar to a Christian monastery.