con·​text | \ ˈkän-ˌtekst How to pronounce context (audio) \

Definition of context

1 : the parts of a discourse that surround a word or passage and can throw light on its meaning
2 : the interrelated conditions in which something exists or occurs : environment, setting the historical context of the war

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Other Words from context

contextless \ ˈkän-​ˌtekst-​ləs How to pronounce context (audio) \ adjective
contextual \ kän-​ˈteks-​chə-​wəl How to pronounce context (audio) , kən-​ , -​chəl , -​chü-​əl \ adjective
contextually adverb

Context, in Context

In its earliest uses (documented in the 15th century), context meant "the weaving together of words in language." This sense, now obsolete, developed logically from the word's source in Latin, contexere "to weave or join together." Context now most commonly refers to the environment or setting in which something (whether words or events) exists. When we say that something is contextualized, we mean that it is placed in an appropriate setting, one in which it may be properly considered.

Examples of context in a Sentence

… it was Dickens who first used the word 'detective' in a literary context — John Mullan, How Novels Work, 2006 Entrepreneurship and civil freedoms depend on a context of civil order, predictability, and individual security. — Susan L. Woodward, Balkan Tragedy, 1995 … the old building, its original acre, inside its high outer wall, was immune to change, out of context and out of time. — Harriet Doerr, The Tiger in the Grass, 1995 We need to look at the event within the larger context of world history. The book puts these events in their proper historical and social contexts. We need to consider these events in context.
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Recent Examples on the Web Some employees at the facility had complained of poor labor practices and work conditions, and Sanders invited one of the workers to a hearing during which the matter was discussed in the context of income inequality. Zachary Halaschak, Washington Examiner, "Businesses breathe sigh of relief after Amazon defeats unions," 10 Apr. 2021 Simmons was eager to speculate on why his music — equally confrontational and confessional, addressing his life in sermon-like tones and in the context of God and the devil — resonated with audiences. Todd Martens Game Critic, Los Angeles Times, "DMX, gravel-voiced hip-hop star who topped charts in late ‘90s, dead at 50," 9 Apr. 2021 Carlson’s comments came in the context of a conversation about how the government treats migrants who cross the southern border., "‘We believe it’s time for Carlson to go’: Anti-Defamation League calls on Fox News to fire Tucker Carlson," 9 Apr. 2021 There's a difference between general information-gathering and personal information gathering in the context of a friendship. Chicago Tribune, Star Tribune, "Coping: Is it OK to ask how others got through the vaccination maze?," 9 Apr. 2021 His remarks came in the context of a conversation about how the government treats migrants who cross the southern border -- one of the most frequent topics on Fox. Brian Stelter, CNN, "ADL calls on Fox News to fire Tucker Carlson over racist comments about 'replacement' theory," 9 Apr. 2021 But Baker also noted that levels of fentanyl must be considered in the context of how long someone had used the drug, any tolerance built up to it, and what other substances may be involved. Amy Forliti, Anchorage Daily News, "Medical examiner: Pressure on George Floyd’s neck exacerbated his heart condition," 9 Apr. 2021 When this information is available, the clinician can then focus on the patient’s immediate condition or complaint, seeing it in the context of the patient’s health over time. Matthew Michela, Forbes, "Veterans Health Administration Opens Up: Tackling Interoperability In The Private Sector," 8 Apr. 2021 Harm reduction is typically thought of in the context of formalized programs – methadone clinics and syringe service programs – but experts say the way Lovato speaks about her own moderation could fall under the umbrella of harm reduction. Alia E. Dastagir, USA TODAY, "Demi Lovato has alcohol, weed in moderation: What experts think of the 'California Sober' approach," 6 Apr. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'context.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of context

circa 1568, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for context

Middle English contexte "text, composition," borrowed from Medieval Latin contextus "sequence, connection, setting," going back to Latin, "action of weaving, connection, coherence, ordered scheme, structure," from contexere "to weave together, connect (words), compose, combine" (from con- con- + texere "to weave, construct") + -tus, suffix of action nouns — more at technical entry 1

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Time Traveler for context

Time Traveler

The first known use of context was circa 1568

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Statistics for context

Last Updated

13 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Context.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for context



English Language Learners Definition of context

: the words that are used with a certain word or phrase and that help to explain its meaning
: the situation in which something happens : the group of conditions that exist where and when something happens


con·​text | \ ˈkän-ˌtekst How to pronounce context (audio) \

Kids Definition of context

1 : the words that are used with a certain word in writing or speaking Without the context, I don't know what he meant by the word “odd.”
2 : the situation in which something happens The book considers her actions in their historical context.

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Comments on context

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