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, 2012 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, 2012 at 18:20
  • Perhaps blanched, bleached, faded, washed out? I doubt a standard word has arisen to denote grayed-out text. Sep 18, 2012 at 19:07
  • 4
    How about "demoted text"? Sep 18, 2012 at 20:35
  • I would use "fade" (suggested by @jwpat7).
    – MetaEd
    Sep 18, 2012 at 21:25

7 Answers 7


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. Sep 18, 2012 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, 2012 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, 2012 at 12:46
  • @Vi0 I appreciate the thought. Sep 20, 2012 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, 2012 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, 2012 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? Sep 18, 2012 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, 2012 at 20:20
  • When I use a dimmer switch, I myself dim the light. Different places, different usages I suppose. Sep 18, 2012 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, 2012 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, 2012 at 20:11
  • Then mark is the general term. See my expanded answer.
    – Gnawme
    Sep 18, 2012 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

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