os·​tra·​cize | \ˈä-strə-ˌsīz \
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

In Poland, the leader of the governing party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, is a conservative who was once ostracized by the early leaders of post-communist Poland. Patrick Kingsley, New York Times, "How a Liberal Dissident Became a Far-Right Hero, in Hungary and Beyond," 6 Apr. 2018 Some describe feeling ostracized or simply ignored. Kristen Bellstrom, Fortune, "Capital Gazette shooting , Bill Shine, Anthony Kennedy: Broadsheet June 29," 29 June 2018 Moved by the stories of young L.G.B.T. people ostracized by the Mormon Church in Utah, Dan Reynolds, the frontman of Imagine Dragons, hosts a benefit festival for gay rights organizations. Sara Aridi, New York Times, "What’s on TV Monday: ‘Salvation’ and ‘Ballet 422’," 25 June 2018 But amid tensions between Europe and the US, Russia, which has been ostracized by both, now sees a chance to warm up ties with European leaders. Fred Weir, The Christian Science Monitor, "Russia woos a Europe feuding with US over tariffs, Iran," 31 May 2018 The group is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and the European Union, and it has been increasingly ostracized within the Middle East. Loveday Morris, Washington Post, "Behind bloody Gaza clashes, economic misery and piles of debt," 23 Apr. 2018 Wayne Rooney has retired from international soccer; Joe Hart has been ostracized. Rory Smith, New York Times, "Dele Alli and England Drop Their Guard and Their Past," 18 June 2018 Both have been recently ostracized, for very different reasons: Lily was expelled for plagiarism, jeopardizing her college prospects. Justin Chang, latimes.com, "Cory Finley's 'Thoroughbreds' is a delectably twisted mean-girls noir," 8 Mar. 2018 This is about criminalizing and ostracizing female conservatives for being female and conservative. Fox News, "Kellyanne Conway responds to Democrats' calls to abolish ICE," 3 July 2018

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

Greek ostrakizein to banish by voting with potsherds, from ostrakon shell, potsherd — more at oyster

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Statistics for ostracize

Last Updated

4 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for ostracize

The first known use of ostracize was in 1649

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More Definitions for ostracize



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 \
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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to clear from alleged fault or guilt

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