context

noun
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 contextless (audio) \ adjective
contextual \ kän-​ˈteks-​chə-​wəl How to pronounce contextual (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

To put things in context, an average of 102 people were killed in the US every day by car crashes in 2016, so calibrate your sense of panic accordingly. Cathleen O'grady, Ars Technica, "Trash your romaine lettuce and don’t eat any in restaurants, says the CDC," 21 Nov. 2018 Some of that context has gone missing in the discussion about Stankey’s June 19 conversation with HBO head Richard Plepler, first reported Sunday in the New York Times. Peter Kafka, Recode, "Here’s what HBO’s new boss really said about the company’s plans under AT&T," 10 July 2018 In a rally context, the dual motors should be like having the craziest active center differential ever created. Ezra Dyer, Popular Mechanics, "Electric Slide: We Drove the Tesla Model 3 in the Snow to See How It Fares as a Rally Car," 21 Feb. 2019 But those fights sort of morph into hearings—grievances aired, context disclosed, perspectives explained and vetted—all that. Marie Claire, "A New Couple, A Newer Home, and 2 Paychecks," 7 Feb. 2019 In that context, everything could have gone south right there. Alex Ward, Vox, "How Trump made the North Korea crisis worse," 12 Dec. 2018 Gift bags can only be appropriately used in one context: exchanged between adults as a sad, unspoken agreement to accept the death of holiday magic, mystery, and beauty. Emily Chiu, Redbook, "Why I Never Put Christmas Presents In Gift Bags," 5 Nov. 2018 Local experts like Detroit author and historian Ken Coleman and national ones like Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. bring valuable context to the array of vintage photos and films clips. Julie Hinds, Detroit Free Press, "'Detroit: Comeback City' documentary is personal, and that's a good thing," 1 July 2018 Billed as a museum, though it’s rustic and provides little context, tour goers can pick up a copy of Sand’s memoirs and see Chopin’s piano. Lilah Ramzi, Vogue, "Why Winter Is the Most Inspiring Time to Visit Majorca," 25 Dec. 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

12 Mar 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for context

The first known use of context was circa 1568

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More Definitions for context

context

noun

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

context

noun
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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More from Merriam-Webster on context

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with context

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for context

Spanish Central: Translation of context

Nglish: Translation of context for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of context for Arabic Speakers

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).

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