For example, downvoted answers on StackExchange.

More-or-less normal variant seems to be "to gray out", but it's seems limited to gray colour (not to small font, pictures, strike-through or other methods of making the text visibly less important)...

Answers I like so far: (in short)

  • obscure
  • fade/bleach/blanch/gray out/strike though (i.e. the specific effect)
  • [be]dim
  • deemphasize
  • mute
  • demote
  • It's not the text that's being punished. It's the person who posted it. – Robusto Sep 18 '12 at 18:18
  • 1
    I mean the text effect itself. "punishing" here means "marking for everyone that there is a problem here" (edit the title if there's better word). – Vi0 Sep 18 '12 at 18:20
  • Perhaps blanched, bleached, faded, washed out? I doubt a standard word has arisen to denote grayed-out text. – James Waldby - jwpat7 Sep 18 '12 at 19:07
  • 4
    How about "demoted text"? – FumbleFingers Sep 18 '12 at 20:35
  • I would use "fade" (suggested by @jwpat7). – MetaEd Sep 18 '12 at 21:25

How about "obscure"? "v. To make dim or indistinct", "Not capable of being clearly seen, on account of deficient illumination." (Reference: Wordnik.)

  • 1
    I think the common usage for obscure implies a 'thing' that does the obscuring. The question is about the online practice of making something less-visible to other users i.e. by greying its color. – New Alexandria Sep 18 '12 at 21:04
  • One problem with obscure is that it can also mean to make more confusing or difficult to understand, which may be an unfortunate second meaning when applied to text. – J.R. Oct 2 '12 at 9:31

The commonly used word is


Which carries a contextual meaning to depreciate the item in question relative to its peers/etc. The frame of your question is about "punishing" a conversational contribution - and such "punishment" requires authoritative privileges. These privileges define the role of the Moderator in a conversation.

However, 'to moderate' is not a universal 'downvote,' as moderating can raise the level of attention. Regardless, the common expression for downvoting (and similar) is to moderate.

A commonly related concept is


as in, conversation muting. "Masking" is also used in a similar way.

Where these are words that, in their native contexts (audio, print/art, painting), have an all-or-nothing meaning (e.g. "mute" means "off") – in the context of web media and conversational streams, the words can be used with many shades of meaning. This position is nouveau, and you probably won't find it in a dictionary of any sort (besides EL&U!)

As most are alluding to, the more common figure of speech is given for the emphasizing / highlighting focus of top-ranked elements.

  • (Intended to accept this answer also, but can't make the question Community Wiki to do this...) – Vi0 Sep 20 '12 at 12:46
  • @Vi0 I appreciate the thought. – New Alexandria Sep 20 '12 at 13:57

Reduce font size, dim, grey out, camouflage (or blend), strike through, increase transparency...

Generically speaking, I would say these are all ways to deemphasize text, or to make text less prominent.

prominent: easy to see or notice; conspicuous

  • If I understand what the O.P. is asking for, this wouldn't be restricted to something negative. For example, in a computer-based training module, links to already-completed components might be dimmed, or greyed out, or reduced in size - that is, the text would be modified so that it was less prominent than the other text surrounding it. – J.R. Sep 18 '12 at 21:06
  • 1
    Originally I thought about "something negative" (I just saw an _____-ed answer and took interest "how to call it?"), but the general question is about "make visibly less important". – Vi0 Sep 18 '12 at 23:07
  • penalize (when down-voted)
  • obscure
  • conceal
  • hide (elementary but works surprisingly well)
  • bedim (fits with graying-out)
  • block
  • flag (technical, usually for reporting abuse or attracting moderator attention)
  • 1
    What about just dim? – Tim Lymington Sep 18 '12 at 19:47
  • @TimLymington, don't really know about that. Example usage: "Your post was dimmed"? IMO, it sounds weird. Bedim means making something dim whereas dim just means losing brightness or in this case, visibility. – rrampage Sep 18 '12 at 20:20
  • When I use a dimmer switch, I myself dim the light. Different places, different usages I suppose. – Tim Lymington Sep 18 '12 at 20:21



Actually, Dictionary.com hits my intended sense of the word better for this use:

dis·par·age/diˈsparij/ Verb:
Regard or represent as being of little worth. Synonyms:
depreciate - belittle - decry - underestimate


The usual action is to strike the text:

strike, tr.v.

10. to remove words from a document, for example by drawing a line through them

If you simply want to mark the text as "bad," you can use one of a number of proofreading marks.

  • "Strike" or "gray out" is one of particular methods. I'm looking for a general term "do something with the text to mark it bad". – Vi0 Sep 18 '12 at 19:15
  • In that case, I'd be surprised if there's a specific word. I think you'd have to say "display the text differently to show that it is bad" or something like that. – Jay Sep 18 '12 at 20:11
  • Then mark is the general term. See my expanded answer. – Gnawme Sep 18 '12 at 22:37


in the sense of cut off (say from a discussion).

Or Muted

in the sense that nobody wants to hear what is being said in this post, so we pressed the 'mute' button.

Or Obliterated: Destroyed

Or Effaced: Erased

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.