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

Marinari agrees that there is a sense of ostracizing moms who don’t drink from those who do. Claire Gillespie, SELF, "Becoming Sober Made Me Realize How Problematic ‘Wine Mom’ Culture Really Is," 20 Nov. 2018 Who cares if he might be hurt or ostracized or traumatized—Eric only met the guy in rehab, after all. Elizabeth Logan, Glamour, "Every Single Episode of Gossip Girl, Ranked," 19 Sep. 2018 The rise of the National Front, Marine Le Pen’s right-wing anti-immigrant party that won a third of votes in France’s presidential runoff last year, aggravated many young black Voguers who already felt ostracized. Thomas Adamson, BostonGlobe.com, "Voguing revives as Paris minorities strike a political pose," 25 Mar. 2018 Despite her agreeable relationship with her ex-husband Prince Andrew, Fergie was somewhat ostracized by his relatives following their divorce and a number of high-profile scandals in the 1990s. Caroline Hallemann, Town & Country, "Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, Looks Stunning in a Green Dress at Her Daughter Princess Eugenie's Wedding," 12 Oct. 2018 Without lionizing, ostracizing or enabling MBS, Mr. Pompeo needs to get to the heart of the matter: Saudi insecurity. Walter Russell Mead, WSJ, "Don’t Ditch Riyadh in a Fit of Righteousness," 15 Oct. 2018 In a Vanity Fair article published Thursday, Nicholl notes that it has been reported that Ferguson was often ostracized by the royal family since her divorce in 1996. Eileen Reslen, Harper's BAZAAR, "Sarah Ferguson Will Be Front and Center at Daughter Princess Eugenie's Royal Wedding," 26 July 2018 But Landis lost his legal fight and ended up ostracized from cycling. Juliet Macur, New York Times, "For Lance Armstrong, Backing Down Might Have Hurt More Than Paying $5 Million," 20 Apr. 2018 While standing on the podium during the medal ceremony, both men raised their fists in a black power salute that famously sparked outrage and ostracized them from the Olympics community. Aja Romano, Vox, "Beyoncé and Jay–Z paid tribute to black athletes — and black power — for Halloween," 1 Nov. 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

30 Dec 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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