Definition of bowdlerize in English:


(also bowdlerise)


  • Remove material that is considered improper or offensive from (a text or account), especially with the result that the text becomes weaker or less effective.

    ‘a bowdlerized version of the story’
    • ‘The first intimations of serious trouble came from Trieste, where the censors savagely bowdlerised Stiffelio 1850.’
    • ‘One wonders what other half-hidden catastrophes the draftsman might have included in nooks and crannies of the distant vistas, only to have them bowdlerized by his publisher.’
    • ‘Spencer sees that modern astronomy's contempt for its mystically minded ancestor has required an acrobatic rewrite of history, in which the ideas of those of the past have been bowdlerised and suppressed.’
    • ‘No, it wasn't ‘walk and chew gum’, it was ‘fart and chew gum’, as you well known; it was bowdlerised for popular consumption.’
    • ‘I knew ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ was usually bowdlerised so that at least the heroine survived but in the version in this book she ended up eaten.’
    • ‘In 1979, he discovered that ‘some cubby-hole editors’ had bowdlerized his book in 98 places.’
    • ‘I have been obliged to bowdlerise the exact words he used.’
    • ‘They were not published until 1813 and a full, though bowdlerized, edition waited until 1898.’
    • ‘Other books were bowdlerized, including Boccaccio's Decameron and Castiglione's The Courtier.’
    • ‘However, their voices have been lost; that is, their idiom and phraseology were bowdlerized by pious editors like Hibbins’
    • ‘The shape of the great tales, so often bastardised and bowdlerised, is lost without the fine-weave and fibre of the prose itself.’
    • ‘It's one thing to bowdlerize copy for family consumption, it's quite another to make it sound like someone is being suspended in an act of ultra-PC idiocy because you don't print the actual quote that got them in trouble.’
    • ‘Mistress Quickly's lines were severely bowdlerized in the 19th century.’
    • ‘Forget that the sense of it being a fable is bowdlerized by the fact that almost none of the character action is fully motivated.’
    • ‘This early, healthy, and profoundly Christian apprehension has, of course, been bowdlerized by the pagan eco-spirituality crowd (which sees nature, not as a sacrament, but as a goddess).’
    • ‘Is it that the artists really hate having their creative works bowdlerised and would resist signing contracts which would result in even wider distribution of the watered-down versions of their work?’
    • ‘I want to do a very quick and inevitably glib and bowdlerised bit of history before coming to my point.’
    • ‘The more subversive, high-functional sufferers of this syndrome can be quite funny, at least in the context of repressed and bowdlerized bourgeois institutions, like junior high.’
    • ‘After his death, he remained a key figure, both lionized and bowdlerized by the regime, with statues and shrines set up to celebrate him as a ‘champion of the Party’.’
    • ‘I'll confess I didn't realize how much his stuff got bowdlerized for the airwaves.’
    expurgate, censor, blue-pencil, cut, edit, redact
    make cuts to, delete parts of, make deletions in
    purge, purify, sanitize, make presentable, make acceptable, make palatable, water down, emasculate
    clean up
    View synonyms


Mid 19th century: from the name of Dr Thomas Bowdler (1754–1825), who published an expurgated edition of Shakespeare in 1818, + -ize.