ex·​e·​ge·​sis | \ˌek-sə-ˈjē-səs, ˈek-sə-ˌjē-\
plural exegeses\ ˌek-​sə-​ˈjē-​(ˌ)sēz , ˈek-​sə-​ˌjē-​ \

Definition of exegesis 

: exposition, explanation … politicians accustomed to speaking in 20-second sound bites suddenly began regaling (empty) galleries with windy, tendentious exegeses of the Founding Fathers' thoughts on the role of the Senate in confirming judges.— Jacob Weisberg especially : an explanation or critical interpretation of a text As an exegesis, though, it's nicely done, and Kennedy traces Sontag's main themes deftly along tortuous paths through both essays and fiction. — Larissa MacFarquhar

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Did You Know?

Theological scholars have long been preoccupied with interpreting the meanings of various passages in the Bible. In fact, because of the sacred status of the Bible in both Judaism and Christianity, biblical interpretation has played a crucial role in both of those religions throughout their histories. English speakers have used the word exegesis - a descendant of the Greek term exegeisthai, meaning "to explain" or "to interpret" - to refer to explanations of Scripture since the early 17th century. Nowadays, however, academic writers interpret all sorts of texts, and "exegesis" is no longer associated mainly with the Bible.

Examples of exegesis in a Sentence

a psychobiography that purports to be the definitive exegesis of the late president's character

Recent Examples on the Web

This entire episode is about reading and interpreting, knowing and not knowing: This jacket’s brief message has drawn us all into the task of exegesis — the critical explanation of a text. Rhonda Garelick, The Cut, "The Jacket Heard Round the World," 22 June 2018 More: Jeff Sessions: No asylum for victims of domestic abuse, gang violence How do Christians feel about his exegesis? Emily Mcfarlan Miller And Yonat Shimron, USA TODAY, "Why is Jeff Sessions quoting Romans 13 and why is the bible verse so often invoked?," 16 June 2018 There are reams of books and entire universities dedicated to promoting this exegesis. Sarah Jones, The New Republic, "What’s Next for Evangelicalism?," 7 June 2018 While Richards’ interpretations of poems tend to be cranky and elliptical, the models of careful exegesis supplied by New Critics were designed to show newcomers to literature how it might be done. Timothy Aubry, New Republic, "The Paradoxical Politics of Literary Criticism," 12 Oct. 2017 Perhaps the best short exegesis is to be found in Philip Hamburger’s recent pamphlet The Administrative Threat. Nr Symposium, National Review, "It’s Summer, Time to Catch Up on Your Reading — A Symposium," 31 July 2017 Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, devotes an entire chapter of his new book to a detailed exegesis of why Cruz is so deeply despised. Charles P. Pierce, Esquire, "Don't Sleep on Ted Cruz," 11 July 2017 In the end, Ms. Okpokwasili’s often academic-sounding exegeses of her work become repetitive. Glenn Kenny, New York Times, "Review: Okwui Okpokwasili’s ‘Bronx Gothic,’ From Stage to Screen," 11 July 2017 The dizzying range of musical talent among this year’s three Pulitzer finalists—from Yun’s eerie precision and Fure’s snarling intensity to Soper’s philosophical exegeses—should be treated not as a victory but as a clarion call. William Robin, The New Yorker, "What Du Yun’s Pulitzer Win Means for Women in Classical Music," 13 Apr. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'exegesis.' 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 exegesis

1627, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for exegesis

New Latin, from Greek exēgēsis, from exēgeisthai to explain, interpret, from ex- + hēgeisthai to lead — more at seek

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The first known use of exegesis was in 1627

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to express warning or disapproval

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