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Anglicisation of French étiolé (empaled), past participle of étioler (to blanch; to become strawlike), verbalisation of the Norman étule (stalk), from Old French esteule (straw), from Latin stipulam (straw).[1] Attested since the mid-18th century.


  • IPA(key): /ˈiːtɪəˌleɪtɪd/
  • (file)



  1. simple past tense and past participle of etiolate


etiolated (comparative more etiolated, superlative most etiolated)

  1. Blanched because of sunlight deprivation or excessive exposure to sunlight.
    Birds inhabiting desert regions have an etiolated appearance.
    • 1789, Erasmus Darwin, The Botanic Garden, Note XXXIV, Canto IV.1.34,[1]
      [] it must be observed that both vegetable and animal substances become bleached white by the sun-beams when they are dead, as cabbage-stalks, bones, ivory, tallow, bees-wax, linen and cotton cloth; and hence I suppose the copper-coloured natives of sunny countries might become etiolated or blanched by being kept from their infancy in the dark, or removed for a few generations to more northerly climates.
    • 1949, George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Part Two, Chapter 2,[2]
      Already on the walk from the station the May sunshine had made him feel dirty and etiolated, a creature of indoors, with the sooty dust of London in the pores of his skin.
    • 2019 February 5, Oliver Wainwright, “Super-tall, super-skinny, super-expensive: the 'pencil towers' of New York's super-rich”, in The Guardian[3]:
      Any visitor to New York over the past few years will have witnessed this curious new breed of pencil-thin tower. Poking up above the Manhattan skyline like etiolated beanpoles, they seem to defy the laws of both gravity and commercial sense. They stand like naked elevator shafts awaiting their floors, raw extrusions of capital piled up until it hits the clouds.
  2. (botany) Grown in the dark.
    • 1887, Thomas Hardy, chapter 4, in The Woodlanders[4]:
      In the hollow shades of the roof could be seen dangling etiolated arms of ivy which had crept through the joints of the tiles and were groping in vain for some support, their leaves being dwarfed and sickly for want of sunlight []
  3. (figuratively) Lacking in vigour, feeble, anemic.
    • 1975, Hansard, "Attack on Inflation," 22 July, 1975,[5]
      I am concerned about Joe Bloggs, the ordinary bloke on the shop floor. Whatever esoteric phraseology the Government use and whatever etiolated formulae the Government give birth to, they will not persuade me that if Joe Bloggs can not get an increase which he is claiming because he is prevented from claiming it, that is a statutory policy, whereas if Joe Bloggs can not get the increase he is claiming because his employer is statutorily forbidden to give it to him, that is not a statutory policy. That is nonsense.
    • 2011, Christopher Hitchens, "Middleton would do well to escape the Royal Family sideshow," The National Post, 21 April, 2011,[6]
      Convinced republican that I am, and foe of the Prince who talks to plants and wants to be crowned “head of all faiths” as well as the etiolated Church of England, I find myself pierced by a pang of sympathy.


  1. ^ etiolate” in Douglas Harper, Online Etymology Dictionary, 2001–2019.