os·​tra·​con | \ ˈä-strə-ˌkän How to pronounce ostracon (audio) \
plural ostraca\ ˈä-​strə-​kə How to pronounce ostracon (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 The mention of her name is one of the few instances where a woman’s name appears on an ostracon. Megan Gannon, Smithsonian Magazine, "Ancient Greeks Voted to Kick Politicians Out of Athens If Enough People Didn’t Like Them," 27 Oct. 2020 The first ostracon was identified in 1853, and over the next century, only about 1,600 were counted from various deposits in Athens, including some from the Athenian Agora, or marketplace, which Sickinger has been studying. Megan Gannon, Smithsonian Magazine, "Ancient Greeks Voted to Kick Politicians Out of Athens If Enough People Didn’t Like Them," 27 Oct. 2020 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.

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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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The first known use of ostracon was in 1883

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Last Updated

2 Dec 2020

Cite this Entry

“Ostracon.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ostracon. Accessed 17 Jan. 2021.

More from Merriam-Webster on ostracon

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about ostracon

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