con·​text | \ˈkän-ˌtekst \

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 \ adjective
contextual \ kän-​ˈteks-​chə-​wəl , 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

Since his first days on the job, Gottlieb appears to have struggled with how to address e-cigarettes in that context. Julia Belluz, Vox, "The FDA may soon ban flavored vapes and menthol cigarettes," 14 Nov. 2018 Putting business messaging inside Google Maps is a good solution in that context. Dieter Bohn, The Verge, "Google Maps will let you chat with businesses," 14 Nov. 2018 In that context, developing a second version of Office that's also for desktop Windows is superfluous. Peter Bright, Ars Technica, "Microsoft suspends development of touch-friendly Office apps for Windows," 28 Sep. 2018 But tarot readers, like therapists, respond to the verbal cues of their clients, and the cards’ meanings — and the resulting analysis — shifts within that context. Katie Heaney, The Cut, "Does Your Therapy Need More Tarot?," 10 July 2018 Some student organizers said those comments struck them as bizarre and rude in that context. Ann Doss Helms, charlotteobserver, "CMS principal whose school gun-rally outburst went viral has been reassigned," 12 June 2018 In a confessional, Ramona adds some context, explaining that her father was verbally abusive to both Ramona herself and her mom., "Did Ramona Singer Finally Have A Breakthrough On RHONY?," 28 June 2018 Crabb said adding culture and mythology to learning the actual language and studying grammar gives students more context. Michael Walsh, Courant Community, "Students Taking Interest In Latin," 10 July 2018 Grande gave more context when another user pointed out that the singer doesn't seem to care what people think about the relationship — to which Grande agreed. Sara M Moniuszko, USA TODAY, "Ariana Grande just got real about her fast-moving relationship with Pete Davidson," 19 June 2018

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

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Statistics for context

Last Updated

19 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for context

The first known use of context was circa 1568

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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 \

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

What made you want to look up context? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


by force of circumstances

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