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Learned borrowing from Ancient Greek ὀστρακισμός (ostrakismós, banishment by means of voting with pot shards), from ὀστρακίζω (ostrakízō, ostracize) + -ισμός (-ismós, -ism), from ὄστρακον (óstrakon, clay pot).



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. [], London: Printed by Iohn Wolfe, for Edward White, OCLC 932919184; republished as J[ohn] Payne Collier, editor, Perimedes the Blacke-smith (Miscellaneous Tracts Temp. Eliz. & Jac. I), [London: s.n., 1867?], OCLC 811360015, page 13:
      Take the ſweete herbe called pleaſant content; with that make a perfume about your bed chamber and where you dyne: the ſavour of this is as ſure a repulſe to exile melancholie, as the oſtracisme was to the noble of Athens.
    • 1603, Michel de Montaigne, chapter 32, in John Florio, transl., The Essayes [], book II, London: [] Val[entine] Simmes for Edward Blount [], OCLC 946730821:
      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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From French ostracisme


ostracism n (uncountable)

  1. ostracism