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1836, from Thomas Bowdler (1754-1825), English editor who in 1818 published a notorious expurgated Shakespeare, in which, according to his frontispiece, "nothing is added to the original text; but those words and expressions omitted which cannot with propriety be read aloud in a family." Related: Bowdlerized; bowdlerizing.
Amending a book by removing passages and words deemed obscene or objectionable (see obscenity). The name comes from Thomas Bowdler's 1818 edition of the plays of William Shakespeare, which was amended so that it could “be read aloud in a family.”