os·​tra·​cize ˈä-strə-ˌsīz How to pronounce ostracize (audio)
ostracized; ostracizing

transitive verb

: to exile by ostracism
Despite his victories, Themistocles was ostracized by the Athenians.
: to exclude from a group by common consent
a lonely dissenter, ostracized as an enemy of the peopleRobert Brustein

Did you know?

Ostracize Has Greek Roots

In ancient Greece, citizens whose power or influence threatened the stability of the state could be exiled by a practice called ostracism. Voters would elect to banish another citizen by writing that citizen's name down on a potsherd. Those receiving enough votes would then be subject to temporary exile from the state. Ostracize originated with the meaning "to exile by the ancient method of ostracism," but these days it usually refers to the general exclusion of a person from a group at the agreement of its members.

Examples of ostracize in a Sentence

She was ostracized from the scientific community for many years because of her radical political beliefs. The other girls ostracized her because of the way she dressed.
Recent Examples on the Web Women who give birth to an albino child or even one with disorders such as autism or cerebral palsy are often chastised and ostracized by their husbands and relatives. Gus Alexiou, Forbes, 11 Feb. 2024 Since June is a Black woman in an overwhelmingly white profession, Hegarty uses his influence to ostracize her from her boss and her peers. Aramide Tinubu, Variety, 10 Jan. 2024 When Oskar begins fomenting outright rebellion, inciting the staff of the school newspaper to publish a hatchet-style profile of Carla, and the other teachers begin ostracizing Carla, the seeds of a coup d’état undermining Carla’s benevolent dictatorship are planted. Michael O'Sullivan, Washington Post, 8 Jan. 2024 Even more disturbing was the reaction of his colleagues at Stanford University, who had no reservations about ostracizing and condemning him for his honest and forward declarations. WSJ, 4 Jan. 2024 Even within the Japanese American community, those who resisted in any way, like the No-Nos who responded in the negative to the questionnaire, including my Uncle Hiroshi, were shunned and ostracized. Tamiko Nimura, Smithsonian Magazine, 28 Dec. 2023 Women with fistulas are often ostracized by their own communities, abandoned even by their closest family. Ashley Judd, Scientific American, 5 Jan. 2024 Günther recalled being ostracized at his all-male school. Richard Sandomir, New York Times, 17 Dec. 2023 Soon ostracized by all those around her, Nowak struggles to balance compassion for everyone affected with certainty that her dubious methods have revealed the truth. Bob Strauss, Los Angeles Times, 4 Jan. 2024 See More

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

Word History


borrowed from Greek ostrakízein "(in 5th-century Athens) to banish an individual chosen after a vote taken by writing names on potsherds," from óstrakon "earthen vessel, potsherd" + -izein -ize — more at ostracon

First Known Use

1649, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of ostracize was in 1649


Dictionary Entries Near ostracize

Cite this Entry

“Ostracize.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ostracize. Accessed 25 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


os·​tra·​cize ˈäs-trə-ˌsīz How to pronounce ostracize (audio)
ostracized; ostracizing
: to force to leave or refuse to include by ostracism

from Greek ostrakizein "to banish by voting with pottery fragments," from ostrakon "shell, pottery fragment"

Word Origin
The ancient Greek word ostrakon had several meanings, including "a shell" and "a fragment of pottery." Such pottery fragments were used in ancient Athens as ballots in a particular kind of popular vote. Once a year the citizens would gather in the marketplace to decide who, if anyone, should be forced to go away temporarily for the good of the city. Each voter wrote a name on an ostrakon. If enough votes were cast against one person, then that person was sent away from the city, or ostracized.
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