noun con·text \ ˈkän-ˌtekst \
Updated on: 30 Jan 2018

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


play \ˈkän-ˌtekst-ləs\ adjective


play \kän-ˈteks-chə-wəl, kən-, -chəl, -chü-əl\ adjective



Examples of context in a Sentence

  1. … it was Dickens who first used the word 'detective' in a literary context —John MullanHow Novels Work2006
  2. Entrepreneurship and civil freedoms depend on a context of civil order, predictability, and individual security. —Susan L. WoodwardBalkan Tragedy1995
  3. … the old building, its original acre, inside its high outer wall, was immune to change, out of context and out of time. —Harriet DoerrThe Tiger in the Grass1995
  4. We need to look at the event within the larger context of world history.

  5. The book puts these events in their proper historical and social contexts.

  6. We need to consider these events in context.

Recent Examples of context from the Web

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.

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.

Origin and Etymology of context

Middle English, weaving together of words, from Latin contextus connection of words, coherence, from contexere to weave together, from com- + texere to weave — more at technical

CONTEXT Defined for English Language Learners



Definition of context for English Language Learners

  • : 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

CONTEXT Defined for Kids


noun con·text \ ˈkän-ˌtekst \

Definition of context for Students

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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having a quality expressive of sadness

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