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Ostracise vs. Ostracize — What's the Difference?

Edited by Tayyaba Rehman — By Urooj Arif — Updated on April 7, 2024
Ostracise and ostracize are variants of the same term, meaning to exclude from a group, with "ostracize" being the American spelling and "ostracise" the British.
Ostracise vs. Ostracize — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Ostracise and Ostracize


Key Differences

Ostracise, commonly used in British English, involves the exclusion of an individual from a society or group. Whereas ostracize, preferred in American English, refers to the same act of social exclusion. Both terms originate from the ancient Greek practice of ostracism, where citizens could vote to exile someone deemed a threat to the state.
Ostracise is often found in literature and publications that adhere to British spelling conventions, emphasizing the cultural and linguistic preferences of the region. On the other hand, ostracize is predominant in American books, media, and academic writing, showcasing the spelling variations that distinguish American English from its British counterpart.
While both terms convey the same social action, their spelling reflects the broader differences between British and American English, such as 'colour' vs. 'color' or 'favour' vs. 'favor'. This distinction in spelling does not alter the fundamental meaning of being socially excluded.
The choice between ostracise and ostracize does not influence the severity or nature of the exclusion but rather aligns with the regional spelling preferences of the writer or speaker. This demonstrates how language evolves and adapts to different cultural contexts, even when the underlying concepts remain unchanged.
In discussions of language and spelling conventions, ostracise and ostracize serve as examples of the variability and richness of English. They illustrate how variations in spelling can coexist within the same language, offering insights into the linguistic diversity that characterizes English-speaking communities worldwide.

Comparison Chart

Spelling Variants

British English spelling
American English spelling


Preferred in the UK, Australia, and other regions following British English conventions
Predominant in the United States and other areas using American English


Ancient Greek 'ostrakismos'
Derived from the same Greek root

Cultural Association

Reflects broader British spelling patterns (e.g., organise, realise)
Aligns with American spelling conventions (e.g., organize, realize)

Contextual Preference

Common in British literature, academic writing, and media
Often seen in American publications, educational materials, and media

Compare with Definitions


To exclude someone from society or a group.
After the scandal, the club members decided to ostracise him.


Intentionally avoiding association.
After the fallout, they ostracized themselves from the community.


The act of making someone a pariah.
His actions led to his eventual ostracise from the community.


A measure of enforced isolation.
Ostracize him seemed the only solution to preserve the group's integrity.


Social rejection within a community.
The ancient city-states would ostracise those seen as threats.


Act of social exclusion in American English.
The new policy was effectively ostracizing minority groups.


To avoid purposely.
She chose to ostracise herself from the group activities.


To exclude from a group by common consent.
He was ostracized from the scientific community for his controversial views.


A method of temporary banishment.
The decision to ostracise her was met with mixed reactions.


Making someone a social outcast.
His relentless criticism led to being ostracized by his peers.


Standard spelling of ostracize


Exclude from a society or group
She was declared a witch and ostracized by the villagers


Same as ostracize.


(in ancient Greece) banish (an unpopular or overly powerful citizen) from a city for five or ten years by popular vote
Themistocles was indeed out of favour at Athens by the end of the 470s, when he was ostracized


Expel from a community or group


To exclude from a group or society
"Lepers wrapped in bandages—ostracized from their villages and unable to obtain work—rushed up to passing cars, waving crude handmade flags to warn of potholes, in the hope that motorists would fling loose change at them before they got too close" (John Ghazvinian). "Lionesses with worn and missing teeth are not ostracized from their pride, but live out their old age ... supported by the hunting of younger females" (Cindy Engel).


Avoid speaking to or dealing with;
Ever since I spoke up, my colleagues ostracize me


To banish by ostracism, as in ancient Greece.


To ban a person from a city for five or ten years through the procedure of ostracism.


(by extension) To exclude a person from a community or from society by not communicating with them or by refusing to acknowledge their presence; to refuse to associate with or talk to; to shun.
Thesaurus:pay attention


To exile by ostracism; to banish by a popular vote, as at Athens.


To banish from society, by a general consent; to exclude from social, political, or private favor; to exclude from conversation or friendship; to shun; as, he was ostracized by his former friends. A person may be ostracized by a formal vote or by a widespread but informal agreement.


Expel from a community or group


Avoid speaking to or dealing with;
Ever since I spoke up, my colleagues ostracize me

Common Curiosities

What does ostracize mean?

To banish or exclude someone from a group, commonly used in American English.

Are ostracise and ostracize interchangeable?

Yes, they are interchangeable but differ in regional spelling preferences.

Can a person be ostracized for any reason?

People can be ostracized for various reasons, often due to social disagreement or perceived threat to group harmony.

How did ostracism originate?

It originates from an ancient Greek practice where citizens could vote to exile someone.

Is there a legal recourse against being ostracized?

Legal recourse depends on the context and jurisdiction, though social exclusion per se might not be legally actionable.

What are the long-term effects of being ostracized?

Long-term effects include emotional distress, lowered self-esteem, and increased risk of depression.

What does ostracise mean?

To exclude someone from a group or society, typically used in British English.

Why are there two spellings for ostracize?

The variations reflect the different spelling conventions of British and American English.

Is ostracism a form of bullying?

Yes, it can be considered a form of social bullying by excluding someone deliberately.

Can ostracism affect mental health?

Yes, being ostracized can lead to significant emotional distress and mental health issues.

Does the internet facilitate ostracism?

Yes, online platforms can amplify ostracism through social media exclusion and cyberbullying.

How is ostracism used in politics?

It can be used as a strategy to sideline opponents or dissenting voices within political groups.

How can societies prevent ostracism?

By fostering inclusive environments and addressing conflicts openly rather than resorting to exclusion.

Can organizations ostracize individuals?

Yes, organizations can engage in ostracism by excluding individuals from professional networks or activities.

Can ostracism lead to positive outcomes?

In some cases, it may lead to positive change by encouraging reflection and behavioral adjustment in the ostracized individual.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Urooj Arif
Urooj is a skilled content writer at Ask Difference, known for her exceptional ability to simplify complex topics into engaging and informative content. With a passion for research and a flair for clear, concise writing, she consistently delivers articles that resonate with our diverse audience.
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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