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 One former classmate said Betts had been ostracized in their small school district, once escorted off the bus by police. Keith Bierygolick, USA TODAY, "Dayton shooting gunman who police say killed 9 was in a 'pornogrind' metal band," 5 Aug. 2019 Human beings evolved to gossip, preen, manipulate, and ostracize. Jonathan Haidt, The Atlantic, "Why It Feels Like Everything Is Going Haywire," 12 Nov. 2019 His latest reappointment comes as the Trump administration continues to push for changes to the park system, often ostracizing former leaders and their ambitions. Kurtis Alexander, SFChronicle.com, "Yosemite National Park to get a change of leadership — again," 23 Oct. 2019 The essentials: In rural Nebraska in 1993, a graduating senior — presumed gay and ostracized — is handed a music cassette by a popular jock. Los Angeles Times, "The walls bleed in this immersive, Halloween-season ‘Macbeth’," 11 Oct. 2019 Focusing on the most faultless, idealized individuals did not convince Republicans; Democrats only succeeded in further ostracizing immigrants who didn’t fit the DREAMer mold. Libby Watson, The New Republic, "The Grim Lottery of Surprise Medical Bill Stories," 10 Oct. 2019 In other words, at best, Arabs saw Obama’s plan as a naïve, warped effort to elevate the formerly ostracized at their own expense. Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, "Israel’s Good and Bad New Realities," 3 Sep. 2019 The thing that my Peruvian family used so discreetly here in the U.S. in order to not be ridiculed or ostracized is now a trend. Thatiana Diaz, refinery29.com, "Why Palo Santo Is More Than Just A "Fragrance Trend"," 25 July 2019 The film, written by Phillips and Scott Silver, is described as a gritty portrayal of a character ostracized by society. Trilby Beresford, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Joker': What the Critics are Saying," 31 Aug. 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

Time Traveler

The first known use of ostracize was in 1649

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Last Updated

2 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Ostracize.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ostracize?pronunciation&lang=en_us&dir=o&file=ostrac02. Accessed 6 December 2019.

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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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Comments on ostracize

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very cautious or careful

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