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

Ostracize Has Greek Roots

In ancient Greece, 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. Ostracize originated with the meaning "to exile by the ancient method of ostracism," but these days it usually refers to the general exclusion of a person from a group at the agreement of its members.

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 Should the scientific community ostracize individual Russian researchers because of their government's policies or their support of their nation's leader? Don Lincoln, CNN, 12 Apr. 2022 As a result, the industry went to great lengths to ostracize any opportunistic or dishonest operators. David Hill, Harper’s Magazine , 27 Apr. 2022 Heated debates have erupted within the Eastern Orthodox Church in numerous countries whether to openly ostracize Patriarch Kirill and Russia. New York Times, 18 Apr. 2022 But there is something particularly unworthy and low about Republican leaders refusing to readily condemn and ostracize the haters, extremists and nut cases in their midst. Laura Blasey, Los Angeles Times, 4 Mar. 2022 And the same pundits and politicians who have spent two years attempting to ostracize and slander anyone who opposed their mandates are now deeply upset by some gentle prodding. David Harsanyi, National Review, 3 Mar. 2022 His plan to ostracize the unvaccinated caused a political uproar and would never fly in the US. Stephen Collinson, CNN, 11 Jan. 2022 Benton’s interpretation does incorporate punitive consequences—including suspension, when the severity of the behavior warrants it—but calls for those consequences to be applied in a way that doesn’t ostracize students from the school community. Kat Mckim, Fortune, 19 Jan. 2022 Post that unethical action to the internet, and hoards of off-road enthusiasts will descend to boycott your business, ban you from group outings, and generally ostracize you from the community. Wes Siler, Outside Online, 2 Oct. 2019 See More

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.

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

Learn More About ostracize

Time Traveler for ostracize

Time Traveler

The first known use of ostracize was in 1649

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast About ostracize

Dictionary Entries Near ostracize




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for ostracize

Last Updated

10 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Ostracize.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ostracize. Accessed 18 May. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for ostracize


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.


Test Your Vocabulary

Great Words for Scrabble

  • scrabble tiles that read scrabble quiz
  • Which of the following Q-without-U words means the number five in cards or dice?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!