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Three Ancient Greek ostraca inscribed with the names Themistokles and Neokleos,[n 1] which were used to vote for whether those persons should be ostracized (sense 1) from the city; the procedure was called ostracism.

From Ancient Greek ὀστρακίζω (ostrakízō, to banish from a city by ostracism), from ὄστρᾰκον (óstrakon, earthenware vessel; fragment of such a vessel, potsherd) (from the fact that when voting was held to decide whether to banish people, their names were inscribed on potsherds) + -ῐ́ζω (-ízō, suffix forming verbs)). The English word is cognate with French ostraciser.[1]



ostracize (third-person singular simple present ostracizes, present participle ostracizing, simple past and past participle ostracized) (American spelling, Oxford British English)

  1. (transitive, Ancient Greece, historical) To ban a person from a city for five or ten years through the procedure of ostracism. [from mid 19th c.]
    • 1836 December 15, Eleazer Wheelock Ripley, “The President’s Message”, in Register of Debates in Congress, Comprising the Leading Debates and Incidents of the Second Session of the Twenty-fourth Congress: [] (United States House of Representatives), volume XIII, Washington, D.C.: Printed and published by Gales and Seaton, published 1837, →OCLC, column 1097:
      Republics have been accused of being ungrateful. Aristides was ostracised for being called the Just, and Themistocles banished, after saving his country from desolation.
    • 1840, “OSTRACISM”, in [George Long], editor, The Penny Cyclopædia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, volumes XVII (Organ–Pertinax), London: Charles Knight and Co., [], →OCLC, page 55, column 2:
      [T]he person who was ostracised was obliged to leave Athens within ten days after the sentence, and unless a vote of the people recalled him before the expiration of that time, to stay in exile for ten years.
    • [1849], George Grote, “Twenty-first Year of the War.—Oligarchy of Four Hundred at Athens.”, in A History of Greece from the Earliest Period to the Close of the Generation Contemporary with Alexander the Great. [...] In Four Volumes, 2nd edition, volume III, New York, N.Y.: W. L. Allison Co., publishers, →OCLC, part II (Continuation of Historical Greece), page 203:
      The Athenian Hyperbolus, who had been ostracized some years before by the coalition of Nikias and Alkibiades, together with their respective partisans—ostracized (as Thucydides tells us) not from any fear of his power and over-transcendent influence, but from his bad character and from his being a disgrace to the city—and thus ostracized by an abuse of the institution—was now resident at Samos.
  2. (by extension) To exclude a person from a community or from society by not communicating with them or by refusing to acknowledge their presence; to refuse to associate with or talk to; to shun. [from mid 17th c.]
    Synonyms: blackball, cut someone dead, give someone the cold shoulder, send to Coventry, leper; see also Thesaurus:ignore
    Antonyms: see Thesaurus:pay attention
    • 1704, [Antoine Furetière], “Bombast’s Speech to His Army”, in The Rebellion: Or, An Account of the Late Civil-wars, in the Kingdom of Eloquence, London: Printed [for John Nutt ...], →OCLC, page 48:
      You then moſt Noble Equivocations and Alluſions, whom Rhetorick would Oſtraciſe, ſeek Revenge for your Baniſhment; [...]
    • 1811 July 4, Henry A[lexander] S[cammell] Dearborn, An Oration, Pronounced at Boston, on the Fourth Day of July, 1811, before the Supreme Executive and in the Presence of the Bunker-Hill Association, Boston, Mass.: Printed by Munroe & French, printer to the state, →OCLC, pages 4–5:
      The inflexible advocate[s] of the people's rights, were either expelled the Senate Chamber, ostracised, or immolated on the reeking altars of patriotism, by the encrimsoned sword of slaughtering persecution.
    • 1841, Anthony Grumbler [pseudonym; David Hoffman], chapter VII, in Miscellaneous Thoughts on Men, Manners, and Things, Baltimore, Md.: Published by Plaskitt & Cugle, →OCLC, page 179:
      [O]thers may wonder at the mawkish taste of a community which, instead of ostracising such a palpable charlatan at once, attended and praised all that he had to say!
    • 1852 August, “Death of Henry Clay: The Convention System”, in Democratic Review, volume II, number II (New Series; volume XXXI, number CLXX, overall), New York, N.Y.: Published at the office of the Democratic Review, [], →OCLC, page 151, column 1:
      No party worthy of the name will submit, permanently, to any regime which ostracises its best men and selects the worst, which has become an epidemic condition of party politics, and may take off most of what is worth recognizing in the pride of our boasted institutions.
    • 1860 January, “Art IX.—Ancient and Modern Art and Literature.”, in J[ames] D[unwoody] B[rownson] De Bow, editor, De Bow’s Review and Industrial Resources, Statistics, etc.: [], volume III (New Series; volume XXVIII overall), number I, New Orleans, La., Washington, D.C.: [J. D. B. De Bow], →OCLC, page 83:
      Fashion not only sustains bad writers, but ostracizes and banishes good ones. [William] Shakespeare's writings were popular while he lived, but almost forgotten for two centuries after his death.
    • 1877 January 13, [Francis] Kernan (questioner), Edward Howard (witness), Mississippi. Testimony as to Denial of Elective Franchise in Mississippi, at the Elections of 1875 and 1876, [] (The Miscellaneous Documents of the Senate of the United States for the Second Session of the Forty-forth Congress; volume III, number 45), Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, →OCLC, page 22:
      Q. Have you any knowledge aside from your own case of their socially ostracizing a man?—A. There are almost a dozen in this room, I guess, that I know of; perhaps a dozen.
    • 1905 May 4, “Financials: The Fall of [F. G.] Bigelow”, in Henry Chandler Bowen, editor, The Independent, volume LVIII, number 2944, New York, N.Y.: The Independent, [], →OCLC, page 1030, column 2:
      Our honest and conservative financiers should frown upon and ostracize these black sheep, whether they are cornering the wheat market or manipulating prices on the Stock Exchange by wash sales and otherwise, or promoting a Shipyard Trust, or playing profitably with the surplus funds of a life insurance company.
    • 1921 March 18, Rabindranath Tagore, “New York, March 18, 1921”, in C[harles] F[reer] A[ndrews], editor, Letters from Abroad, Madras, Tamil Nadu: S. Ganesan publisher, [], published 1924, →OCLC, page 86:
      I long to be one with the birds and trees and with the green earth. The call comes to me from the air to sing, but, wretched creature that I am, I lecture—and by doing it, I ostracise myself from this great world of songs to which I was born.
    • 2003, Cele C. Otnes, Elizabeth Hafkin Pleck, “Romance, Magic, Memory, and Perfection”, in Cinderella Dreams: The Allure of the Lavish Wedding (Life Passages), Berkeley, Los Angeles, Calif., London: University of California Press, →ISBN, page 22:
      [T]raditions such as the bouquet toss and the "singles" table at the wedding reception often marginalize and ostracize lesbians and gays in attendance.
    • 2007, Kipling D. Williams, Jonathan Gerber, “Ostracism: The Making of the Ignored and Excluded Mind”, in Petra Hauf, Friedrich Försterling, editors, Making Minds: The Shaping of Human Minds through Social Context (Benjamins Current Topics; 4), Amsterdam, Philadelphia, Pa.: John Benjamins Publishing Company, →ISBN, →ISSN, page 132:
      Ostracism can be observed from an early age, and continues throughout the life-cycle. Children ostracize other children in the playground, choosing carefully who they wish to play with. Adults ostracize other adults, such as marriage partners using the silent treatment.
    • 2015 March, Jimmy Carter, “The Road to Progress”, in A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power, New York, N.Y.: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, →ISBN, page 195:
      [A] traditional chief attended our Human Rights Defenders Forum in Atlanta and then returned home to discover that a local soldier had raped a fourteen-year-old girl. The chief personally found the soldier, tied him to a chair, and waited for the police to arrive and arrest him. He then used his influence to prevent anyone from condemning or ostracizing the girl. The benefits from this kind of bold action have been proven in Malawi, Senegal, Liberia, Ghana, and other African countries.
    • 2018, Joost van Spanje, “Pariah Parties: Established Parties’ Systematic Boycotting of Other Parties”, in Controlling the Electoral Marketplace: How Established Parties Ward off Competition (Political Campaigning and Communication), Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, Springer Nature, →DOI, →ISBN, pages 37–38:
      A common practice by established parties in liberal democracies that often accompanies delegitimisation efforts is ostracising a challenger party. In this book's first chapter we have defined ostracising a party as systematically ruling out all political cooperation with that party [...].

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  1. ^ From the collection of the Goulandris Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens, Greece.


  1. ^ ostracize, v.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, September 2004; ostracize, v.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.

Further reading[edit]





  • Hyphenation: os‧tra‧ci‧ze



  1. inflection of ostracizar:
    1. first/third-person singular present subjunctive
    2. third-person singular imperative