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

Definition of ostracize

transitive verb

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

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Ostracize Has Greek Roots

In ancient Greece, prominent 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 (usually for ten years). The English verb ostracize can mean "to exile by the ancient method of ostracism," but these days it usually refers to the general exclusion of one person from a group at the agreement of its members. Ostracism and ostracize derive from the Greek ostrakizein ("to banish by voting with potsherds"). Its ancestor, the Greek ostrakon ("shell" or "potsherd"), also helped to give English the word oyster.

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 Dern will play George’s brother Frank, who is described as the scientific genius and ostracized black sheep of the Zax family. Rosy Cordero, EW.com, "It's Billy Bob Thornton versus J.K. Simmons and Bruce Dern in Goliath final season," 3 Feb. 2020 Rodriguez often felt ostracized growing up in New Jersey. Leah Prinzivalli, Allure, "The Allure Podcast: Mj Rodriguez on Learning to Articulate Her Identity," 20 Jan. 2020 An unanticipated problem was encountered, check back soon and try again Meghan Markle and Prince Harry‘s decision to step down as senior royals became inevitable as the couple increasingly felt ostracized from the family. Michelle Tauber, PEOPLE.com, "Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Felt Their 'Hand Was Forced' to Leave Royal Family Amid 'Bad Blood'," 14 Jan. 2020 Not having people be there for me, or almost feeling ostracized by women. Scott King, chicagotribune.com, "Sexually assaulted at 14, UFC fighter Paige VanZant says telling her story is ‘liberating’," 18 Apr. 2018 Marc Short said that the media was focusing too much on concerns that President Trump might ostracize Romney for being the lone Republican in the Senate to vote to convict the president on one of the impeachment counts. Paul Bedard, Washington Examiner, "Top Pence aide: Mitt Romney ungrateful, ‘who’s not giving forgiveness?’," 6 Feb. 2020 Many of them feel ostracized on their campus for their beliefs. Chris Quintana, USA TODAY, "Nationalist 'antics' or the future of the GOP? College Republicans are at war," 17 Jan. 2020 Each had an American name to use in the outside world, where they were often ostracized and called monkeys and savages. National Geographic, "https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2020/02/clotilda-americas-last-slave-ship-stole-them-from-home-it-couldnt-steal-their-identities-feature.html," 16 Jan. 2020 But their political parties have always been marginalized and ostracized, except, briefly, in the early 1990s when Yitzhak Rabin was prime minister. Dov Waxman, The Conversation, "The 4 big questions that the next Israeli government will decide," 18 Sep. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ostracize.' 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 ostracize

1649, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for ostracize

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

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Time Traveler for ostracize

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The first known use of ostracize was in 1649

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Last Updated

25 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Ostracize.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ostracize. Accessed 25 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for ostracize


How to pronounce ostracize (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of ostracize

: to not allow (someone) to be included in a group : to exclude (someone) from a group


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

Kids Definition of ostracize

: to shut out of a group After I cheated, I was ostracized by the other players.

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