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From Ancient Greek ὀστρακισμός ‎(ostrakismós, banishment by means of voting with pot shards), from ὀστρακίζειν ‎(ostrakízein, ostracize) + -ισμός ‎(-ismós, -ism).



ostracism ‎(countable and uncountable, plural ostracisms)

  1. (historical) In ancient Athens (and some other cities), the temporary banishment by popular vote of a citizen considered dangerous to the state. [from 16th c.]
    • 1579, Thomas North, Plutarch's Lives, volume 2, translation of original by Plutarch, published 1898, Themistocles, page 35:
      For this manner of banishment for a time, called ostracismos, was no punishment for any fault committed, but a mitigation and taking away of the envy of the people, which delighted to pluck down their stomacks that too much seemed to exceed in greatness: [].
    • 1588, Robert Greene, “Perimedes the Blacke-Smith”, in Alexander Balloch Grosart, editor, The life and complete works in prose and verse of Robert Greene, volume 7, published 1886, page 19:
      [] with that make a perfume about your bed chamber, and where you dyne, the sauour of this is as sure a repulse to exile melãcholie, as the Ostracisme was to the noble of Athens.
    • 1603, John Florio, translating Michel de Montaigne, Essays, II.32:
      Witnesse the Ostracisme amongst the Athenians, and the Petalisme among the Siracusans.
  2. (figuratively) Banishment by some general consent. [from 17th c.]
    • 1602—3, Lady Arbella Stuart, Sara Jayne Steen, editor, The Letters of Lady Arbella Stuart, New York: Oxford University Press, published 1994, page 171:
      If I have deserved the land should spue me out, I will feed my selfe with the idle and windy conceite of an Ostracisme, and my unregarded poore selfe shall be all the richesse and commpany I crave to transport and if a Princes word [].
  3. Temporary exclusion from a community or society.


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