eti·​o·​late | \ ˈē-tē-ə-ˌlāt How to pronounce etiolate (audio) \
etiolated; etiolating

Definition of etiolate

transitive verb

1 : to bleach and alter the natural development of (a green plant) by excluding sunlight
2a : to make pale
b : to deprive of natural vigor : make feeble

Other Words from etiolate

etiolation \ ˌē-​tē-​ə-​ˈlā-​shən How to pronounce etiolate (audio) \ noun

Did you know?

When we first started using "etiolate" in the late 1700s (borrowed from the French verb étioler), it was in reference to purposely depriving growing celery of light. The word traces back to an Old French word for "straw" and is related to the Latin word for "straw" or "stalk," which is "stipula." Nowadays the term for growing veggies as pale as straw is now more likely to be "blanch," which can mean "to bleach (the leaves or stalks of plants) by earthing, boarding, or wrapping," among other things. "Etiolate" is more apt to refer to depriving plants in general of light; when "etiolated," they are sickly, pale, and spindly. The figurative sense of "etiolate" ("to make pallid or feeble") first appeared in the 1800s as a natural outgrowth of the original sense.

Examples of etiolate in a Sentence

the long, stressful days and sleepless nights gradually etiolated him
Recent Examples on the Web Some etiolated form of what might be called Ledeenism lingered on before taking on new life at the outset of the Trump administration. Jacob Heilbrunn, The New Republic, 23 Jan. 2020

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

First Known Use of etiolate

1784, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for etiolate

French étioler

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The first known use of etiolate was in 1784

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Cite this Entry

“Etiolate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for etiolate


transitive verb
eti·​o·​late | \ ˈēt-ē-ə-ˌlāt How to pronounce etiolate (audio) \
etiolated; etiolating

Medical Definition of etiolate

: to make pale and sickly

Other Words from etiolate

etiolation \ ˌēt-​ē-​ə-​ˈlā-​shən How to pronounce etiolate (audio) \ noun


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