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A Word A Day — excoriate

October 01, 2012

Word of the Day

  • excoriate
  • audio pronunciation
  • \ek-SKOR-ee-ayt\


: to wear off the skin of : abrade
: to censure scathingly

“Every blow that shakes it will serve to harden it against a future stroke; as constant labour thickens the skin of the hand, and strengthens its muscles instead of wasting them away: so that a day of arduous toil, that might excoriate a lady's palm, would make no sensible impression on that of a hardy ploughman.” — From Anne Brontë's 1847 novel Agnes Grey

“One consequence of writing for a broader public was a growing disposition to write about people and places that I admired, and not just those whom it gave me pleasure to excoriate.” — From Tony Judt's 2012 book Thinking the Twentieth Century


“Excoriate,” which first appeared in English in the 15th century, comes from “excoriatus,” the past participle of the Late Latin verb “excoriare,” meaning “to strip off the hide.” “Excoriare” was itself formed from a pairing of the Latin prefix “ex-,” meaning “out,” and “corium,” meaning “skin” or “hide” or “leather.” “Corium” has several other descendants in English. One is “cuirass,” a name for a piece of armor that covers the body from neck to waist (or something, such as bony plates covering an animal, that resembles such armor). Another is “corium” itself, which is sometimes used as a synonym of “dermis” (the inner layer of human skin).

From Merriam-Webster Online at

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