What is the long word that means "to purify (remove vulgarity) in the text of a literary work"? I have been thinking on it for a while - I used to know it - but forgot.

There is only one word that fits what I am looking for, but the only words that came to mind were proselytization, bastardization, and vernacularization.


4 Answers 4


Bowdlerize, sanitize or purge could all work in the context you describe.

  • Yes yes! Bowdlerization!
    – user53594
    May 11, 2014 at 6:02
  • 2
    +1 for bowdlerize. The other two are more general terms that can be used for this, but bowdlerize hits it straight on the head. May 11, 2014 at 6:02
  • 3
    Thomas Bowdler published "The Family Shakspeare" in 1807: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Bowdler May 11, 2014 at 7:26

Expurgate works as well.

The editor expurgated racial slurs before publishing the author's work.

  • "Olsen's Standard Book of British birds - the expurgated version - the one without the gannet." ;-) May 11, 2014 at 19:59

Historically, a diaskeuasis for removing perceived vulgarity is called a Index Expurgatorius as opposed to the outright ban, or Index Librorum Prohibitorum

  • If you have to link to a definition of a word you're using, that typically means you should pick simpler words. "Revision process", for example, would be far less opaque.
    – cHao
    May 11, 2014 at 18:28

To remove vulgarity, one must first define vulgarity.

In a case with a famous outcome the Justice Stewart wrote, "I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that."

In order to not explicitly attempt to remove what someone may or may not consider vulgar, usage of "abridge" might be suitable.

The disclaimer, "This film has been modified from its original version. It has been formatted to fit this screen and edited for content." is used when showing a movie for TV (often for basic cable or broadcast).

So, while "abridged" and "edited" are not as fancy as "bowdlerize", these gain an advantage. If the recipient finds something that they consider to be vulgar, they can't state that the editor failed to remove the vulgarity since this varies from person to person.

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