context

noun
con·​text | \ ˈkän-ˌtekst How to pronounce context (audio) \

Essential Meaning of context

1 : the words that are used with a certain word or phrase and that help to explain its meaning To really know a word, you must be able to use it in context. [=in a sentence with other words]
2 : the situation in which something happens : the group of conditions that exist where and when something happens We need to look at the event within the larger/broader context of world history. The book puts these events in their proper historical and social contexts. We need to consider these events in context.

Full 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

Other Words from context

contextless \ ˈkän-​ˌtekst-​ləs How to pronounce context (audio) \ adjective
contextual \ kän-​ˈteks-​chə-​wəl How to pronounce context (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 The film — written and directed by Swift herself — replays memories from the song, while adding some dialogue to provide more context to the already specific lyrics. Hanna Flanagan, PEOPLE.com, 23 Nov. 2021 Unlike the wide world of Disney, however, The Shrink Next Door isn’t often concerned with providing overt context for Ike’s often reprehensible behavior. Erin Qualey, Vulture, 20 Nov. 2021 Facts First: At very least, this claim is missing key context. Daniel Dale And Tara Subramaniam, CNN, 20 Nov. 2021 Whittingham provides great context for a discussion about Cristobal. John Canzano, oregonlive, 20 Nov. 2021 Because of limitations on available information to provide context for all the deaths, the 29 deaths classified as indirect COVID-19 fatalities may be an undercount for that category, the review team wrote in the report. Stephanie Innes, The Arizona Republic, 19 Nov. 2021 Slater became a go-to guy in the locker room — an authoritative voice who could always provide some context to every situation. Globe Staff, BostonGlobe.com, 18 Nov. 2021 The service previously highlighted its top 10 programs for subscribers in more than 90 countries but without hard numbers to provide necessary context. Mónica Marie Zorrilla, Variety, 16 Nov. 2021 The service previously highlighted its top 10 programs for subscribers in more than 90 countries but without hard numbers to provide necessary context. NBC News, 16 Nov. 2021

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near context

conteur

context

context-free

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for context

Last Updated

27 Nov 2021

Cite this Entry

“Context.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/context. Accessed 2 Dec. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for context

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.

More from Merriam-Webster on context

Nglish: Translation of context for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of context for Arabic Speakers

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Name that Thing: Flower Edition

Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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