os·​tra·​con | \ ˈä-strə-ˌkän How to pronounce ostracon (audio) \
plural ostraca\ ˈä-​strə-​kə How to pronounce ostraca (audio) \

Definition of ostracon

: a fragment (as of pottery) containing an inscription usually used in plural

Examples of ostracon in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

That’s because for nearly 50 years archaeologists thought the back of the ostracon was blank, when really the ink was invisible. Nicholas St. Fleur, New York Times, "Revealed in Israel, a 2,600-Year-Old Request for Wine," 16 June 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ostracon.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of ostracon

1883, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for ostracon

borrowed from Greek óstrakon "earthen pot, potsherd, hard shell of a mollusk or tortoise," of uncertain origin

Note: Greek óstrakon, as well as óstreion, óstreon "bivalve mollusk, oyster" (see oyster), have traditionally been taken as derivatives from Indo-European *h3esth1-r-, supposedly a heteroclitic stem with an -n- counterpart in Sanskrit ásthi, genitive asthnáḥ "bone," from a base *h3esth1- (or *h2osth1-), reflected more directly in Greek ostéon "bone" (see osteo-, osseous). The word óstrakon could be a derivative with a suffix *-n̥-k-, seen also without -r- in ostakón "lobster, crayfish" (see astaxanthin). These suppositions have been challenged by R. Beekes (Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Brill, 2010), who rejects the existence of both the heteroclitic base and a supposed suffix *-n̥-k-, and takes the entire set of words as of substratal origin, with -ak- and -ei- (from *-ay-) as pre-Greek suffixes.

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Last Updated

17 Sep 2019

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Time Traveler for ostracon

The first known use of ostracon was in 1883

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