ex·​e·​ge·​sis | \ ˌek-sə-ˈjē-səs How to pronounce exegesis (audio) , ˈek-sə-ˌjē- \
plural exegeses\ ˌek-​sə-​ˈjē-​(ˌ)sēz How to pronounce exegeses (audio) , 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 The Russians soon became for progressives the exegesis of why Hillary lost, rather than her anemic campaign or near-toxic persona. Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, "A Russian Under Every Bed," 17 Dec. 2019 Dean Baquet, the executive editor, will retire in a few years, and Mr. Smith offered a lengthy exegesis on who might succeed him. Edmund Lee, New York Times, "The Future of BuzzFeed: Win or LOL?," 31 Jan. 2020 Some political-theological exegesis would be required to unspool the nature of the accomplishment. Thomas Meaney, Harper's magazine, "Trumpism After Trump," 20 Jan. 2020 In high school, at Horace Mann, Barr—known then as Billy—presented fellow-students with a line-by-line exegesis of the Constitution. David Rohde, The New Yorker, "William Barr, Trump’s Sword and Shield," 13 Jan. 2020 The New Orleans native has written a hybrid of the most exquisite kind, part family history, part archaeological dig, part self-exegesis. Bethanne Patrick, Washington Post, "The 10 books to read in August," 30 July 2019 Saskia Hamilton, who teaches at Barnard and helped assemble the two previous volumes of Lowell letters, approaches the particulars here with deep knowledge and occasionally overexcited exegesis. Thomas Mallon, The New Yorker, "Marriage, Betrayal, and the Letters Behind “The Dolphin”," 9 Dec. 2019 Her approach comes out of the early online communities that sprang up around shows, where fans could kibitz and argue, exchanging detailed exegeses of episodes and (back then) bootleg videotapes. Jennifer Szalai, New York Times, "A TV Critic Who Has Seen the Small Screen Become Huge," 3 July 2019 Segal has brought together here odds and ends from a writing life: short stories, short essays, biblical exegesis, as well as selections from her novels, making it a fitting bookend to a long career and an excellent introduction to her work. Madeleine Schwartz, Harper's magazine, "Warm, Weird, Effervescent," 10 June 2019

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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Last Updated

23 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Exegesis.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/exegesis. Accessed 31 Mar. 2020.

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More from Merriam-Webster on exegesis

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for exegesis

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with exegesis

Britannica English: Translation of exegesis for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about exegesis

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