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[eks-foh-lee-eyt] /ɛksˈfoʊ liˌeɪt/
verb (used with object), exfoliated, exfoliating.
to throw off in scales, splinters, etc.
to remove the surface of (a bone, the skin, etc.) in scales or laminae.
verb (used without object), exfoliated, exfoliating.
to throw off scales or flakes; peel off in thin fragments:
The bark of some trees exfoliates.
  1. to split or swell into a scaly aggregate, as certain minerals when heated.
  2. to separate into rudely concentric layers or sheets, as certain rocks during weathering.
Medicine/Medical. to separate and come off in scales, as scaling skin or any structure separating in flakes.
Origin of exfoliate
1605-15; < Late Latin exfoliātus past participle of exfoliāre to strip off leaves. See ex-1, foliate
Related forms
[eks-foh-lee-ey-tiv, -uh-tiv] /ɛksˈfoʊ liˌeɪ tɪv, -ə tɪv/ (Show IPA),
adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for exfoliate
  • Back at the lodge, exfoliate grimy layers of history in the spa's bear claw tubs.
  • For example, the company could offer facial soaps, or bars that moisturize or exfoliate.
  • The cause is beyond reductive statements, even when they exfoliate into such resplendent prose.
  • It is a unique mineral with the ability to exfoliate, or expand, upon heating.
  • Ultimately gypsum minerals exfoliate and cause limestone deterioration.
  • The virus is released as cells exfoliate from the epithelium.
British Dictionary definitions for exfoliate


(transitive) to wash (a part of the body) with a granular cosmetic preparation in order to remove dead cells from the skin's surface
(of bark, skin, etc) to peel off in (layers, flakes, or scales)
(intransitive) (of rocks or minerals) to shed the thin outermost layer because of weathering or heating
(of some minerals, esp mica) to split or cause to split into thin flakes: a factory to exfoliate vermiculite
Derived Forms
exfoliation, noun
exfoliative, adjective
Word Origin
C17: from Late Latin exfoliāre to strip off leaves, from Latin folium leaf
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for exfoliate

1610s, from Late Latin exfoliatus, past participle of exfoliare "to strip of leaves," from ex- "off" (see ex-) + folium "leaf" (see folio). Related: Exfoliated; exfoliating.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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