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

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web This is happening within the context of Big Brother failing to address bullying and bias across multiple seasons. Kyle Fowle,, "Big Brother recap: An explosive fight acts as a reminder of the issues plaguing Big Brother," 11 Sep. 2020 Thus any of the aplomb and verve Trubisky is currently demonstrating needs to be kept within proper context. Dan Wiederer,, "Column: Mitch Trubisky has the Bears starting QB job and is in a good place mentally. But how much will that mean?," 6 Sep. 2020 In it, Burgis, an investigations correspondent for the Financial Times, places Trump within the context of a widening number of international kleptocrats. Jennifer Taub, Washington Post, "Trump among the kleptocrats," 3 Sep. 2020 Within the context of the editor’s personal history, bringing Vogue to Scandinavia might be seen as a triumph of feminism—and a defense of the importance and impact of fashion. Laird Borrelli-persson, Vogue, "Meet Martina Bonnier, Vogue Scandinavia's New Editor-In-Chief," 19 Aug. 2020 Last month’s deadly standoff in the Himalayas, in which Indian and Chinese soldiers are believed to have engaged in hours of hand-to-hand combat using crude weapons such as stones and iron rods, occurred within the context of this longer history. Yasmeen Serhan, The Atlantic, "A Nationalist’s Guide to Stepping Back From the Brink," 8 July 2020 Within the context of these processes, survivors are afforded more flexibility to decide for themselves what justice looks like. Isabel Cristo, The New Republic, "Policing Doesn’t Protect Women," 6 July 2020 Musician Nelson Kempf will produce an album of original songs to better understand himself within a wider context of Alaska cultural history while reaching toward decolonization and environmental stewardship. Danielle Duclos, Anchorage Daily News, "Rasmuson Foundation announces 2020 award winners, gives top honor to Tlingit carver Wayne Price," 2 July 2020 Residents and local leaders say the loss of Save A Lot must be understood within this context. Nathaniel Meyersohn, CNN, "This neighborhood was struggling. Then its only grocery store closed in the pandemic," 1 July 2020

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about context

Time Traveler for context

Time Traveler

The first known use of context was circa 1568

See more words from the same year

Statistics for context

Last Updated

15 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Context.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Sep. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for context


How to pronounce context (audio)

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.

Keep scrolling for more

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).


Test Your Vocabulary

Homophone Quiz

  • three bears two of them look like theyre whispering to a third bear who looks chuffed to be the center of attention
  • In order to judge how people felt, the senator's office hired a firm to take a ______.
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!