Definition of ostracize in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈästrəˌsīz/


[with object]
1Exclude (someone) from a society or group: a group of people who have been ridiculed, ostracized, and persecuted for centuries
More example sentences
  • You would essentially be ostracising yourself from your society's culture.
  • It was almost impossible for them to contemplate escaping to a society that would only ostracise them and condemn them as sinners.
  • Those who stepped out of line, who adopted Western styles or non-conformist attitudes, found themselves ostracized, assaulted, and even imprisoned.
exclude, shun, spurn, cold-shoulder, reject, shut out, avoid, ignore, snub, cut dead, keep at arm's length, leave out in the cold;
blackball, blacklist
informal freeze out
1.1(In ancient Greece) banish (an unpopular or too powerful citizen) from a city for five or ten years by popular vote.
Example sentences
  • The chief result of the War was that the Athenian Empire was divided, the subject states of the Delian league were liberated, direct democracy failed and Pericles was ostracized.
  • This was the issue on which opposition to him was focused by Thucydides son of Melesias, a relative of Cimon, but Thucydides was ostracized c. 443 and the building continued.
  • Requiring that someone had over 6000 votes before being ostracised was an added feature to try to ensure that only when a person was unpopular with a large number of voters was exile the result.


Mid 17th century: from Greek ostrakizein, from ostrakon 'shell or potsherd' (on which names were written, in voting to banish unpopular citizens).

  • In ancient Athens the people of the city would gather together every year to vote on whether an unpopular citizen should be expelled for ten years. They wrote the name of the person they wanted to send into exile on an ostrakon, a shell or fragment of pottery, and somebody who was exiled in this way was said to have been ostracized. Today a person who is ostracized is excluded from a society or group. See also oyster

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: os·tra·cize

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.