• ostracize •
ah-strê-saiz • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb, transitive
Meaning: 1. To exclude from social contact, to isolate socially. 2. To banish to a remote region, literally or figuratively.
Notes: Did you know that the suffix -ism is the verb suffix -ize, as in ostracize, plus a suffix -m? Today's Good Word is good evidence that this is true, for the noun meaning "the process of ostracizing" is ostracism. Be sure to use a Z in the verb suffix and an S in the noun suffix, though, unless you use the old British spelling of the verb: ostracise.
In Play: Ostracize in the first sense above is still used widely throughout the English-speaking world: "Mel Inger was ostracized from the Heaven's Devils motorcycle club after he was seen riding a ten-speed bicycle in town." It is probably more often used metaphorically: "Will I be ostracized from the party if I smoke?"
Word History: Today's Good Word comes from ancient Greece, where ostracism (ostrakismos) was a procedure outside the Athenian justice system by which a prominent citizen could be expelled from Athens for ten years. The ostracism was held in the Agora, where citizens dropped shells or potsherds (broken pieces of pottery) with someone's name scratched on them into urns. When these "ballots" were counted, if a name appeared on 6,000 or more of them, the person named was ostracized. The word comes from Greek ostrakon "shell, potsherd", based on osteon "bone", which also underlies osteoporosis "overly porous bones". (We will never ostracize Gianni Tamburini, our Good Word supplier in Italy, so long as he continues to suggest excellent Good Words like today's.)