No one wants to be ostracized, right? It’s a banishment, or a more metaphorical exclusion. Either way, not good.

But it has a looooong history.

Ostracize actually comes from the Greek word ostrakon–a piece of broken pottery. See, back in the day in Athens, someone who was deemed dangerous to society but who hadn’t committed a crime could be officially banished. The votes were cast on these pieces of broken pottery, and if there were enough gathered, then the person was ostracized–cut off and cast out. Interestingly, this could only be done to men…because women weren’t citizens.

The word has been retained pretty much unchanged all this time, entering into English in the late 1500/early 1600s.