I always assumed that the word censorious meant someone or something that is given to censorship. Like if you say that a community, an organization, or a person is overly-censorious, that means they frequently or unnecessarily censor content. But I just looked up the word in my favorite dictionary and found that censorious has a different meaning than what I thought:


  1. Addicted to censure and scolding; apt to blame or condemn; severe in making remarks on others, or on their writings or manners.
  2. Implying or expressing censure.

So, a censorious person is not a person who is quick to censor. Too bad, because I thought that was a useful word!

Is there an actual word that means "being given to excessive censorship"?

Example: I might criticize a film distributor as being _____ because they often censor controversial content whenever they release a new edition of a classic film.

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    What's wrong with "censorious"? What in its does not correspond to what you want it to mean?
    – fev
    Jul 1 at 7:33
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    Prone to censorship could mean inclined to censor or vulnerable to being censored.
    – Xanne
    Jul 1 at 8:47
  • You should look in multiple dictionaries not just rely on one: "censorious" is fine. It does often mean something closer to critical but can mean prone to censoring. "Self-censoring" might apply in your example but has a narrower meaning. Censors are also often described as "draconian" but that wouldn't apply to someone censoring their own work.
    – Stuart F
    Jul 1 at 9:41
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    Does it have to be an adjective? Would you accept a verb, say, or a noun? If so, dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/bowdlerize Jul 1 at 16:19
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    @Tim I would prefer an adjective as it seems more convenient when describing an entity that tends to censor things. But bowdlerize is a great find and definitely a valid option here! That also reminds me of the word game Balderdash which I played as a kid :)
    – peacetype
    Jul 2 at 0:02

2 Answers 2


The adjective associated with censorship is censorial, not censorious.

From the OED:

censorial: Of, pertaining to, or characteristic of a censor.
censorious: Addicted to censure; severely critical; faultfinding.

So you could use overly censorial, which definitely has been used for the meaning you want.

However, it's a somewhat uncommon word—for example, it's not in the Cambridge Dictionary—and people may get it confused with censorious. On the positive side, if people don't confuse it with censorious, its meaning is fairly obvious from its construction.

  • Wow, thank you! What probably happened is that I heard/read someone use the term overly censorial long ago. And over time, that morphed in my mind and became overly censorious. So then I went on thinking incorrectly that censorious meant given to censorship. Censorial is probably the word I was looking for! Censorial alone does not carry the desired connotation of excessive censorship. But you could simply add overly or excessively to create that connotation. Great find!
    – peacetype
    Jul 4 at 22:29
  • I don't think the -ial adjectival ending there admits the "overly" modifier. It would be like saying "overly postprandial". Jul 5 at 11:05
  • @Tim: overly deferential, overly territorial, overly adversarial? Jul 5 at 11:38
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    @peacetype I don't perceive "tonsorial" as being on a continuum but such twists of meaning are happening all the time. I could see a lawsuit, perhaps, where party A who had represented that it had for sale a miscellaneous lot of instruments from the Victorian era, was being sued by party B, the buyer, who claimed that there was only a very small percentage of medical and scientific instruments in the lot and that barbershop scissors predominated, and that the supposedly miscellaneous lot was "too tonsorial" meaning "disproportionately tonsorial in its composition". Jul 12 at 12:02
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    @Tim Hahahah! Yes!! I love this conversation :)
    – peacetype
    Jul 12 at 18:31

You could perhaps use expurgatious which is derived from expurgate which means

to cleanse of something morally harmful, offensive, or erroneous

especially : to expunge objectionable parts from before publication or presentation

an expurgated edition of the letters

expurgation noun

expurgator noun

I wasn't able to find expurgatious listed in any dictionary while googling, but it seems to have been coined by John Milton, the English poet and philosopher who appears to have used it in 1641.

According to John Witte Jr. in the article Prophets, Priests, and Kings: John Milton and the Reformation of Rights and Liberties in England and quoting Milton from the Complete Prose Works of John Milton in reference to Milton's pronouncements on censorship Milton expressed that

"Nothing is more sweet to man" than freedom of speaking and writing, he wrote in 1641. But for the free born people of England, all free speaking and free publication have long been "pinched," "girded, and straight laced" by "monkish prohibitions, and expurgatious indexes" kept by "some mercenary, narrow-souled, and illiterate chaplain." Censorship is silly and self-defeating for the church, Milton argued.

Apropos Bowdlerize mentioned by @Tim in comments to OP’s question, Merriam-Webster adds in the “did you know”section of the definition linked above that

Expurgation has a long and questionable history. Perhaps history's most famous expurgator, or censor, was the English editor Thomas Bowdler, who in 1818 published the Family Shakespeare, an expurgated edition of Shakespeare's plays that omitted or changed any passages that, in Bowdler's opinion, couldn't decently be read aloud in a family. As a result, the term bowdlerize is now a synonym of expurgate.

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    This seems like a very good fit! But as you say, it's a derived term, and may not be found in many dictionaries. Interestingly, I was also able to find another derived term, expurgatorious, which also cites Milton. @Tim's suggestion of bowdlerize is a helpful noun, but unlike expurgate, it's not easy to turn bowdlerize into an adjective. Bowdleratious? Bowdleratorial? At least expurgatious/expurgatorious have some precedent! I think this could be a very useful term, except for its obscurity.
    – peacetype
    Jul 4 at 22:32

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