exclusion, by general consent, from social acceptance, privileges, friendship, etc.
(in ancient Greece) temporary banishment of a citizen, decided upon by popular vote.

1570–80; < Neo-Latin ostracismus < Greek ostrakismós banishment, equivalent to ostrak(ízein) to ostracize + -ismos -ism

Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
Cite This Source Link To ostracism
World English Dictionary
ostracize or ostracise (ˈɒstrəˌsaɪz)
1.  to exclude or banish (a person) from a particular group, society, etc
2.  (in ancient Greece) to punish by temporary exile
[C17: from Greek ostrakizein to select someone for banishment by voting on potsherds; see ostracon]
ostracise or ostracise
[C17: from Greek ostrakizein to select someone for banishment by voting on potsherds; see ostracon]
'ostracism or ostracise
'ostracizable or ostracise
'ostracisable or ostracise
'ostracizer or ostracise
'ostraciser or ostracise

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
Cite This Source
Word Origin & History

1580s, a method of 10-year banishment in ancient Athens, by which the citizens gathered and wrote the names of men they deemed dangerous to the state on potsherds or tiles, and a man whose name turned up often enough was sent away. From Gk. ostrakismos, from ostrakizein "to ostracize," from ostrakon
"tile, potsherd," related to osteon "bone," ostreion "oyster" (and cognate with Ger. Estrich "pavement," from M.L. astracus "pavement," ult. from Gk. ostrakon). A similar practice in ancient Syracuse (with banishment for five years) was by writing names on olive leaves, and thus was called petalismos. Figurative sense of "to exclude from society" is attested from 1640s.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Cite This Source
Encyclopedia Britannica


political practice in ancient Athens whereby a prominent citizen who threatened the stability of the state could be banished without bringing any charge against him. (A similar device existed at various times in Argos, Miletus, Syracuse, and Megara.) At a fixed meeting in midwinter, the people decided, without debate, whether they would hold a vote on ostracism (ostrakophoria) some weeks later. Any citizen entitled to vote in the assembly could write another citizen's name down, and, when a sufficiently large number wrote the same name, the ostracized man had to leave Attica within 10 days and stay away for 10 years. He remained owner of his property. Ostracism must be carefully distinguished from exile in the Roman sense, which involved loss of property and status and was for an indefinite period (generally for life).

Learn more about ostracism with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
Cite This Source
Example sentences for ostracism
Crucially, ostracism had no relation to the processes of justice.
If they voted yes, then an ostracism would be held two months later.
Copyright © 2014 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature