a : to make pale
b : to deprive of natural vigor : make feeble
Did You Know?
We first started using "etiolate" in the late 1700s (borrowed from the French verb "étioler") in reference to purposely depriving growing celery of light. The word traces back to an Old French word for "straw" and is related to the Latin word for "straw" or "stalk," which is "stipula." Nowadays the term for growing veggies as pale as straw is more likely to be "blanch," which can mean "to bleach (the leaves or stalks of plants) by excluding light," among other things. "Etiolate" is more apt to refer to depriving plants in a way that is undesirable; when "etiolated," they are sickly, pale, and spindly. The figurative sense of "etiolate" ("to make pallid or feeble") appeared in the 1800s as a natural outgrowth of the original sense.
The bean plants that Grace grew for her lab project were weakened and etiolated by their lack of exposure to sunlight.
"With Whistler and his quivering cohort, sure: Their etiolated pictures all but evanesce without those chunky, glistering frames. But beyond the aestheticism of the Gilded Age, I’m not sure the art here always benefits from such a surfeit of razzle-dazzle." - From an art review by Sebastian Smee in the Boston Globe, July 18, 2013
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Name That Synonym
Fill in the blanks to create another word meaning "to deprive of vigor": dvtlz_. The answer is …
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