de·​col·​o·​nize (ˌ)dē-ˈkä-lə-ˌnīz How to pronounce decolonize (audio)
variants also British decolonise
decolonized; decolonizing; decolonizes

transitive verb

: to free (a people or area) from colonial status : to relinquish control of (a subjugated people or area)
the year the country was decolonized
The country faces international pressure to decolonize the territory.
: to free from the dominating influence of a colonizing power
especially : to identify, challenge, and revise or replace assumptions, ideas, values, and practices that reflect a colonizer's dominating influence and especially a Eurocentric dominating influence
To decolonise and not just diversify curriculums is to recognise that knowledge is inevitably marked by power relations. … A decolonised curriculum would bring questions of class, caste, race, gender, ability and sexuality into dialogue with each other, instead of pretending that there is some kind of generic identity we all share. Priyamvada Gopal
Per a statement, staff [at the University of Oxford's Pitt Rivers Museum] have removed a total of 120 human remains from display, moving them to storage as part of a museum-wide effort to decolonize the Pitt Rivers' collections. Nora McGreevy
Decolonizing science will also involve encouraging Western institutions that hold imperial scientific collections to reflect more on the violent political contexts of war and colonization in which these items were acquired. An obvious step forward would be to discuss repatriating scientific specimens to former colonies, as botanists working on plants originally from Angola but held primarily in Europe have done. Rohan Deb Roy
Decolonizing my mind has been a continual process of rethinking the values that guide my actions. It's emotional, intellectual and spiritual labor that involves centering myself as an African-American woman and not allowing my entire existence to be a performance tailored for the white, cisgender male gaze … JerVae (Jae Anthony)

Examples of decolonize in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web This space amplifies and continues to celebrate generations of beauty rituals and wellness practices, while tackling important topics like Black beauty and classism, desirability politics, and decolonizing clean beauty. Cassandra Pintro, Vogue, 30 Aug. 2023 Nance’s celebratory images and the photographs in Onabanjo’s latest exhibition speak to the complexity of decolonizing nationalism—balancing an awareness of the cruel legacy of empire with the rapturous achievement of independence. Tausif Noor, The New Yorker, 2 Sep. 2023 Perhaps the movement to decolonize medicine in favor of creating more equitable and inclusive practice will be essential to setting up health care systems that serve all women, including medical workers. Jennifer Adaeze Okwerekwu, STAT, 24 Aug. 2023 Then maybe plant that, because that’s kind of decolonizing your garden. Mark Olsen, Los Angeles Times, 22 June 2023 To decolonize means to return and respect the earth and see yourself as part of it. Amanda Alcantara,, 7 June 2023 How can journalists help decolonize outdoor recreation history in a deep and significant way? Dakota Kim, Los Angeles Times, 4 May 2023 The problem, then, was how to draft a constitution that reflected this exclusionary conception of national belonging but also, in a decolonizing world, appeared to make the country a procedural democracy. Joshua Leifer, The New York Review of Books, 13 Apr. 2023 Anahuacalmecac school leaders view the institution’s role as decolonizing education by teaching Indigenous students to embrace their heritage. Melissa Gomez, Los Angeles Times, 21 Mar. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'decolonize.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1851, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of decolonize was in 1851

Dictionary Entries Near decolonize

Cite this Entry

“Decolonize.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Oct. 2023.

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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