bowd·​ler·​ize | \ ˈbōd-lə-ˌrīz How to pronounce bowdlerize (audio) , ˈbau̇d- How to pronounce bowdlerize (audio) \
bowdlerized; bowdlerizing

Definition of bowdlerize

transitive verb

1 literature : to expurgate (something, such as a book) by omitting or modifying parts considered vulgar bowdlerize the text
2 : to modify by abridging, simplifying, or distorting in style or content

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Other Words from bowdlerize

bowdlerization \ ˌbōd-​lə-​rə-​ˈzā-​shən How to pronounce bowdlerize (audio) , ˌbau̇d-​ \ noun
bowdlerizer noun

Did You Know?

Few editors have achieved the notoriety of Thomas Bowdler. Bowdler was trained as a physician, but when illness prevented him from practicing medicine, he turned to warning Europeans about unsanitary conditions at French watering places. He then carried his quest for purification to literature, and in 1818 he published his Family Shakspeare [sic], a work in which he promised that "those words and expressions are omitted which cannot with propriety be read aloud in a family." The sanitized volume was popular with the public of the day, but literary critics denounced his modifications of the words of the Bard. Bowdler applied his literary eraser broadly, and within 11 years of his death in 1825, the word bowdlerize was being used to refer to expurgating books or other texts.

Examples of bowdlerize in a Sentence

bowdlerize a classic novel by removing offensive language a bowdlerized version of “Gulliver's Travels” that purportedly makes it unobjectionable for children
Recent Examples on the Web Congress and the president must counter the forces that seek to diminish, exploit or bowdlerize our understanding of this terrible and confounding un-American event. James Reston Jr., Star Tribune, "U.S. Capitol uprising: Any Jan. 6 Commission can't consist of current politicians," 29 Mar. 2021 The mobs of students — and their enabling professors and administrators — renaming buildings and bowdlerizing the language are still products of Western civilization. Jonah Goldberg, Alaska Dispatch News, "A Western disease is on the rise," 28 Aug. 2017 The Bard gets bowdlerized to musical and comic effect in this touring production of the Broadway hit, in which the Bottom Brothers try to outdo that dude from Stratford-upon-Avon. Kerry Reid,, "Summer theater guide 2017: 30 must-see shows," 25 May 2017 Prince the raunchy sylph eventually became a Jehovah’s Witness who would bowdlerize his more explicit material in concert. John Williams, New York Times, "A Still-Grieving Prince Fan Looks Back on the Purple One," 11 Apr. 2017 Maybe there’s a kind of metaphor in there, about how young and spiky verve gets softened and bowdlerized by time spent in the world. Richard Lawson,, "Why Did the Groundbreaking Girls Have Such a Disappointingly Conventional Ending?," 17 Apr. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'bowdlerize.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of bowdlerize

1826, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for bowdlerize

Thomas Bowdler †1825 English editor

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The first known use of bowdlerize was in 1826

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Last Updated

15 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Bowdlerize.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for bowdlerize



English Language Learners Definition of bowdlerize

usually disapproving : to change (a book, play, movie, etc.) by removing parts that could offend people

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