[ eks-foh-lee-eyt ]
/ ɛksˈfoʊ liˌeɪt /

verb (used with object), ex·fo·li·at·ed, ex·fo·li·at·ing.

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), ex·fo·li·at·ed, ex·fo·li·at·ing.

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

ex·fo·li·a·tive [eks-foh-lee-ey-tiv, -uh-tiv] /ɛksˈfoʊ liˌeɪ tɪv, -ə tɪv/, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for exfoliate

  • “I enjoy dating beardy blokes because you get to kiss and exfoliate at the same time,” she quips to The Daily Beast.

    An Ode to Shaggy Men|Marisa Meltzer|October 23, 2009|DAILY BEAST
  • The loch having been drained away, we proceeded to exfoliate the crannog.

British Dictionary definitions for exfoliate


/ (ɛksˈfəʊlɪˌeɪt) /


(tr) 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)
(intr) (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 flakesa factory to exfoliate vermiculite

Derived Forms

exfoliation, nounexfoliative, adjective

Word Origin for exfoliate

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