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

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 Those detections either caused debate or lacked the context for understanding, the researchers said. Ashley Strickland, CNN, "NASA's Curiosity rover finds organic matter on Mars," 7 June 2018 Asking yourself all of these questions will give you context for what setting your gown will be placed in—and therefore, some guidelines regarding silhouette and style. Carrie Goldberg, Harper's BAZAAR, "10 Mistakes to Avoid When Shopping for a Wedding Dress," 5 June 2018 By using data and expert interviews, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau gives context to consumers considering taking on student loans. Deon Roberts, charlotteobserver, "Here's why fees for some NC loans might increase 200 percent," 1 June 2018 But the comments in Britain are much more difficult to place in that context. Aaron Blake, Washington Post, "Trump is threatening the Western alliance. And Republicans have no will to stop him.," 13 July 2018 To put this in context, Facebook at the time had not yet been launched and Napster had been shut down just a couple years ago — and a solid three years before Spotify was founded. Jason Abbruzzese, NBC News, "Ben Affleck — yes that Ben Affleck — appears to have predicted Spotify and Netflix back in 2003," 8 July 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

5 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).


playful or foolish behavior

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