Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search



The leaves on the left side of this Spanish bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica) have become etiolated (sense 1) after having grown under an opaque cover; compare the ones on the right which are not etiolated.

Etymology 1[edit]

From etiolate +‎ -ed (suffix forming adjectives); modelled after French étiolé, the past participle of étioler (to become pale and weak, etiolate),[1] from Norman étieuler (to become plant stalks left over after harvesting to be used as fodder or for thatching),[2] probably from éteule (plant stalks left over after harvesting, stubble) + -er (suffix forming verbs). Éteule is derived from Old French esteule (straw), from Latin stipula (plant stalk; plant stalk left over after harvesting, stubble; straw),[3] ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *steyp- (to be stiff; erect).


etiolated (comparative more etiolated, superlative most etiolated)

  1. (chiefly botany, horticulture) Of a plant or part of a plant: pale and weak because of sunlight deprivation or excessive exposure to sunlight. [from mid 18th c.]
    Synonym: (dated) etiolized
    Antonym: nonetiolated
    • 1806 August 11, “Extracts from Fourcroy on the Philosophy of Vegetation, Translated and Abridged by a Correspondent”, in The Farmer’s Magazine: A Periodical Work Exclusively Devoted to Agriculture, and Rural Affairs, volume VII, number XXVII, Edinburgh: [] D. Willison, [], for Arch[ibald] Constable & Co. [], OCLC 265447464, part IV (of the Influence of Light on Vegetation), paragraph 4, pages 302–303:
      [T]he external leaves which enjoy the light are perfectly green, while those within, naturally or artificially covered up and involved in darkness, are blanched or etiolated; they are thereby rendered white, soft, delicate, and tender, and lose the taste and flavour of the native plant in its green state, or retain these very slightly.
    • 1835, J[ohn] L[ee] Comstock, “The Leaf. (Folium.)”, in An Introduction to the Study of Botany; [], 3rd edition, New York, N.Y.: Robinson, Pratt, & Co. [], OCLC 1051548274, page 43:
      If there is too great an accumulation of oxygen, as when a plant is kept in a dark place, then it will grow towards the nearest ray of light, which if it does not reach, it will remain white, or etiolated, and sickly.
    • [1853], “First Buildings of the New Town”, in Modern Edinburgh, London: The Religious Tract Society, OCLC 315627469, page 54:
      They had been so long accustomed to nestle in their old dwellings sheltered in the narrow closes, "Piled deep and massy, close and high," that they seemed to regard the exposure to open streets and broad thoroughfares pretty much as some etiolated hot-house exotic might be supposed to reflect on its being turned out to the open garden.
    • 1985, Klaus Lurssen, “Plant Responses to Ethylene and Ethylene Releasing Compounds”, in S. S. Purohit, editor, Hormonal Regulation of Plant Growth and Development (Advances in Agricultural Biotechnology), volume 2, Dordrecht; Berlin: Martinus Nijhoff/Dr W. Junk Publishers, →ISBN, page 307:
      In a report of 1901, the "triple response" of etiolated pea seedlings (growth inhibition, thickening of the subapical region, horizontal nutation) was observed to occur in the presence of illuminating gas and ethylene was identified as the inducing agent.
    • 2007, László Bögre, “Cell Signalling Mechanisms in Plants”, in Keith Roberts, editor, Handbook of Plant Science, volume 1, Chichester, West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons, →ISBN, pages 417–418:
      Seedlings are elongated and have closed cotyledons in the dark (aetiolated) while the hypocotyls are short and the cotyledons are open in the light (de-aetiolated).
    • 2019 June 1, Oliver Wainwright, “Super-tall, super-skinny, super-expensive: the ‘pencil towers’ of New York’s super-rich”, in Katharine Viner, editor, The Guardian[1], London: Guardian News & Media, ISSN 0261-3077, OCLC 229952407, archived from the original on 5 October 2020:
      Any visitor to New York over the past few years will have witnessed this curious new breed of pencil-thin tower. Poking up above the Manhattan skyline like etiolated beanpoles, they seem to defy the laws of both gravity and commercial sense. They stand like naked elevator shafts awaiting their floors, raw extrusions of capital piled up until it hits the clouds.
  2. (horticulture) Of a plant: intentionally grown in the dark.
    Antonym: deetiolated
    • 1831, John Stephenson; James Morss Churchill, “Leontodon taraxacum. Common Dandelion.”, in Medical Botany: Or, Illustrations and Descriptions of the Medicinal Plants of the London, Edinburgh, and Dublin Pharmacopœias; [], volume I, London: John Churchill, [], OCLC 906434227:
      It is a fact well known to gardeners, that plants, when blanched, lose many of their active properties; and dandelion thus prepared, is frequently eaten on the continent in salads; [...] The French eat the young roots, and the etiolated leaves, with thin slices of bread and butter; [...]
    • 1842, “Vegetable Physiology”, in The Encyclopædia Britannica, or, A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences and General Literature, volume XXI, 7th edition, Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black, OCLC 696020804, article V (of the Changes which the Sap Undergoes in the Leaves from the Agency of Light), page 577, column 2:
      When deprived of light, says Dr. Irvine, all plants nearly agree in the qualities of their juices. The most pungent vegetables then grow insipid; the highest flavoured, inodorous; and those of the most variegated colours are of a uniform whiteness. [...] The results of analysis perfectly accord with these observations; for etiolated plants are found to yield more saccharine matter, carbonic acid and water, and less inflammable matter than those which are green.
  3. (by extension) Of an animal or person: having an ashen or pale appearance; also, haggard or thin; physically weak.
    Synonyms: emaciated; see also Thesaurus:cadaverous
    Birds inhabiting desert regions have an etiolated appearance.
    • 1791, [Erasmus Darwin], “Additional Notes. Note XXXIV.—Vegetable Perspiration.”, in The Botanic Garden; a Poem, in Two Parts. [], London: J[oseph] Johnson, [], OCLC 270934416, part I (The Economy of Vegetation), page 94:
      [I]t muſt be obſerved that both vegetable and animal ſubſtances become bleached white by the ſun-beams when they are dead, as cabbage-ſtalks, bones, ivory, tallow, bees-wax, linen and cotton cloth; and hence I ſuppoſe the copper-coloured natives of ſunny countries might become etiolated or blanched by being kept from their infancy in the dark, or removed for a few generations to more northerly climates.
    • 1867 July 20, Peter Eade, “Norfolk and Norwich Hospital. Clinical Remarks on Neuralgic Pain lf the Side.”, in The Medical Times and Gazette. A Journal of Medical Science, Literature, Criticism, and News, volume II, number 890, London: John Churchill and Sons, [], OCLC 927025069, page 65, column 1:
      It is also to be noticed that men who spend their days in the most sedentary occupations, and often in a most confined atmosphere, do not suffer from this pain of the side as women so confined and so occupied do. [...] Tailors, again, who often work under conditions not very dissimilar from those of milliners and dressmakers, and often get almost similarly ætiolated, do not suffer from this form of pain as these latter do.
    • 1923, Ronald Firbank, chapter XV, in The Flower beneath the Foot: [], London: Grant Richards, OCLC 977257241, page 217:
      She had long almond eyes, one longer and larger than the other, that gave to her narrow, etiolated face, an exalted, mystic air.
    • 1949 June 8, George Orwell [pseudonym; Eric Arthur Blair], chapter 2, in Nineteen Eighty-Four: A Novel, London: Secker & Warburg, OCLC 690663892; republished [Australia]: Project Gutenberg of Australia, August 2001, part 2, page 130:
      Already on the walk from the station the May sunshine had made him feel dirty and etiolated, a creature of indoors, with the sooty dust of London in the pores of his skin.
  4. (figuratively) Lacking in vigour; anemic, feeble.
    • 1975 July 22, Ian Mikardo, “Attack on Inflation”, in Parliamentary Debates (Hansard): House of Commons Official Report (House of Commons of the United Kingdom)‎[2], volume 896, London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, ISSN 0261-8303, OCLC 145394668, archived from the original on 9 October 2020, columns 409:
      I am concerned about Joe Bloggs, the ordinary bloke on the shop floor. Whatever esoteric phraseology the Government use and whatever etiolated formulae the Government give birth to, they will not persuade me that if Joe Bloggs can not get an increase which he is claiming because he is prevented from claiming it, that is a statutory policy, whereas if Joe Bloggs can not get the increase he is claiming because his employer is statutorily forbidden to give it to him, that is not a statutory policy. That is nonsense.
    • 2011 April 21, Christopher Hitchens, “Middleton would do well to escape the Royal Family sideshow”, in The National Post[3], Toronto, Ont.: Postmedia Network, ISSN 1486-8008, OCLC 920411638:
      Convinced republican that I am, and foe of the Prince [Charles, Prince of Wales] who talks to plants and wants to be crowned "head of all faiths" as well as the etiolated Church of England, I find myself pierced by a pang of sympathy.
    • 2012, R. A. Duff, “Risks, Culpability and Criminal Liability”, in G. R. Sullivan and Ian Dennis, editors, Seeking Security: Pre-empting the Commission of Criminal Harms, Oxford, Oxfordshire; Portland, Or.: Hart Publishing, →ISBN, page 134:
      Does he go to the museum in order to steal the Mona Lisa if it is there and unguarded; or does he go there anyway, but will seize the chance if it presents himself? [...] Insofar as his intention to steal is not given concrete actualisation, as the meaning or pattern of his actions, its culpability is (like its existence) aetiolated; but I see nothing problematic in saying that he is culpable for forming, maintaining and acting on a wrongful intention.
Alternative forms[edit]
Derived terms[edit]
Related terms[edit]
See also[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

From etiolate +‎ -ed (suffix forming verbs).



  1. simple past tense and past participle of etiolate


  1. ^ etiolated, adj.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, March 2014; “etiolated, adj.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–present.
  2. ^ etiolate, v.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–present.
  3. ^ Douglas Harper (2001–2021) , “etiolate”, in Online Etymology Dictionary

Further reading[edit]