from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • transitive v. To remove (a layer of bark or skin, for example) in flakes or scales; peel.
  • transitive v. To cast off in scales, flakes, or splinters.
  • intransitive v. To come off or separate into flakes, scales, or layers.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. To remove the leaves from a plant.
  • v. To remove a layer of skin, as in cosmetic preparation.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • intransitive v. To separate and come off in scales or laminæ, as pieces of carious bone or of bark.
  • intransitive v. To split into scales, especially to become converted into scales at the result of heat or decomposition.
  • transitive v. To remove scales, laminæ, or splinters from the surface of.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To throw off scales or flakes; peel off in thin fragments; desquamate: as, the exfoliating bark of a tree.
  • Specifically In surgery, to separate and come off in scales, as carious bone.
  • In mineralogy, to split into scales; especially, to become scaly at the surface in consequence of heat or decomposition: as, vermiculite exfoliates before the blowpipe.
  • To scale; free from scales or splinters.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. grow by producing or unfolding leaves
  • v. cast off in scales, laminae, or splinters
  • v. come off in a very thin piece
  • v. spread by opening the leaves of
  • v. remove the surface, in scales or laminae


Latin exfoliāre, exfoliāt-, to strip of leaves : ex-, ex- + folium, leaf; see bhel-3 in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From exfoliāt-, the perfect passive participial stem of the Late Latin exfoliō ("I strip of leaves"), from ex ("out of”, “from") + folium ("leaf"); compare effoliate and the French exfolier. (Wiktionary)



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