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ostracism

[os-truh-siz-uh m]
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noun
  1. exclusion, by general consent, from social acceptance, privileges, friendship, etc.
  2. (in ancient Greece) temporary banishment of a citizen, decided upon by popular vote.

Origin of ostracism

1570–80; < New Latin ostracismus < Greek ostrakismós banishment, equivalent to ostrak(ízein) to ostracize + -ismos -ism
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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Word Origin and History for ostracism

n.

1580s, a method of 10-year banishment in ancient Athens, by which the citizens gathered and each wrote on a potsherd or tile the name of a man they deemed dangerous to the liberties of the people, and a man whose name turned up often enough was sent away. From Middle French ostracisme (16c.), Modern Latin ostracismus, or directly from Greek ostrakismos, from ostrakizein "to ostracize," from ostrakon "tile, potsherd," from PIE *ost-r-, from root *ost- "bone" (see osseous). The Greek word is related to osteon "bone," ostreion "oyster" (and cognate with German Estrich "pavement," which is from Medieval Latin astracus "pavement," ultimately from Greek ostrakon).

A similar practice in ancient Syracuse (with banishment for five years) was by writing names on olive leaves, and thus was called petalismos.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper