The word ostracize means "to neglect or banish a person from a group". Many people use this term, but few realize that it was an actual voting process in Ancient Greece: in the olden days, when the city-states really didn't like one of their citizens, they would create a referendum to banish that person. To vote, all land-owning white free males would cast a pottery shard with a yes/no on it and someone would count up all the shards to see whether the people approve of ostracism. This is why our word for ostracize traces to the Greek word for "tile", ostrakon (through ostrakizein, Medieval Latin ostracismus, and Middle French ostracisme). This comes from Proto-Indo-European hest or host, which meant "bone" and is also the origin of some other Greek words denoting hard things, like "lobster" and (obviously) "bone". Yes.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.