- marginal, marginalizeTo the editors of the OED around the turn of the 20c, marginalize meant no more than ‘to write marginal notes [i.e. notes in the margin] upon’, and they marked it ‘rare’. Since then it has been so transformed that the 1991 edition of the Oxford Dictionary of New Words described it (or, more precisely, its derivative marginalization) as ‘one of the main social buzzwords of the eighties’. Increased awareness of the rights of underprivileged groups and minorities has given the word its new lease of life in the meaning ‘to treat (a person or group of people) as marginal and therefore unimportant’. The use of marginal reflected here is itself a 20c development, first in the sociological meaning ‘partly belonging to two differing societies or cultures but not fully integrated into either’ and then in the more general meaning ‘of minor importance, insignificant’. Examples:
• Society, taking its lead from the media and its politicians, begins to reject a whole class and marginalizes them in the job market —C. Phillips, 1987
• Until recently, children's books were regarded as marginal, less than serious as literature —J. Briggs, 1989
• It is not yet clear that the church's long years of marginalisation in our national life have been ended —Independent, 1990
• You work with what are often called ‘marginalized’ people, such as African-Americans and people of color —Bomb, 1992
• Great love, great courage, great triumphs of the human spirit all have their opposites on the dark side. The best we can hope to do is to promote the one and marginalize the other —Sunday Mirror, 2002.
Modern English usage. 2014.