os·​ten·​si·​ble | \ ä-ˈsten(t)-sə-bəl How to pronounce ostensible (audio) , ə-\

Definition of ostensible

1 : intended for display : open to view
2 : being such in appearance : plausible rather than demonstrably true or real the ostensible purpose for the trip

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Choose the Right Synonym for ostensible

apparent, illusory, seeming, ostensible mean not actually being what appearance indicates. apparent suggests appearance to unaided senses that may or may not be borne out by more rigorous examination or greater knowledge. the apparent cause of the accident illusory implies a false impression based on deceptive resemblance or faulty observation, or influenced by emotions that prevent a clear view. an illusory sense of security seeming implies a character in the thing observed that gives it the appearance, sometimes through intent, of something else. the seeming simplicity of the story ostensible suggests a discrepancy between an openly declared or naturally implied aim or reason and the true one. the ostensible reason for their visit

Did You Know?

Like its synonyms "apparent" and "seeming," "ostensible" implies a discrepancy between what appears to be and what actually is. "Apparent" suggests appearance to unaided senses that may not be borne out by more rigorous examination ("the apparent cause of the accident"). "Seeming" implies a character in the thing being observed that gives it the appearance of something else ("the seeming simplicity of the story"). "Ostensible," which descends from the Latin word ostendere ("to show"), suggests a discrepancy between a declared or implied aim or reason and the true one.

Examples of ostensible in a Sentence

That intelligence and those facts, of course, all pertained to Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, the war's ostensible casus belli, which we now know did not exist. — Frank Rich, New York Review, 6 Apr. 2006 To listen again to "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do"—probably the most relentlessly cheerful song ever written on the ostensible theme of misery—is at once to admire its delicately judged textures and Swiss-watch precision … — Geoffrey O'Brien, New York Review of Books, 15 Dec. 2005 Its ostensible subject is America's murderous gun culture. Its real subject, of course, is the ravenous ego of its director-star, Michael Moore. — Scott Berg, Time, 14 July 2003 It's a snarky, glory-thieving place, the world of big-bucks political fund raising. Ostensible grownups can be reduced to screaming toddlers over who gets the credit for bringing in a major donor's gift … — Viveca Novak, Time, 14 June 1999 the ostensible reason for the meeting turned out to be a trick to get him to the surprise party
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Recent Examples on the Web

And so, instead of drafting a serious framework for an infrastructure bill, the White House has developed a fictional plan — with the ostensible aim of giving Trump cover for failing to pass a real one. Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, "Trump’s Infrastructure ‘Plan’ Is Shoddily Built – and Sure to Collapse," 1 Feb. 2018 There, the ostensible leaders have precious little actual authority. Kevin Riordan, Philly.com, "South Jersey Democrats take care of their own - at our expense," 15 Jan. 2018 The ostensible opposition party lacks a clear strategy for the coming legislative midterms, let alone for the incremental grooming of a cohort of jurists to place on the bench two to three decades down the road. Jacob Bacharach, The New Republic, "Don’t Count on History to Judge Wisely," 27 June 2018 D’Onofrio’s take on Fisk remains a highlight of the Netflix show, offering a compelling version of the character whose magnetic personality often overshadowed the show’s ostensible protagonist. Chaim Gartenberg, The Verge, "The new Daredevil trailer reminds you that Vincent D’Onofrio’s Fisk is perfect," 28 Sep. 2018 Today, because menace provides moral empowerment, blacks and their ostensible allies indulge in it. Shelby Steele, WSJ, "Why the Left Is Consumed With Hate," 23 Sep. 2018 Returning to the ostensible topic of the day, Lynch who spent about 20 minutes of his half-hour session answering questions about Foster, conceded that the linebacker’s situation looms over the draft. Ann Killion, San Francisco Chronicle, "GM says Foster will no longer be a 49er if “charges are proven true”," 23 Apr. 2018 Facebook may be used around the world to stoke nationalism and populist anger, but its ostensible guiding values are remarkably similar to those of the Liberal Democrats. Casey Newton, The Verge, "How platforms are driving users to misinformation about mail bombs," 27 Oct. 2018

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

circa 1771, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for ostensible

French, from Latin ostensus, past participle of ostendere to show, from obs-, ob- in the way + tendere to stretch — more at ob-, thin

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Statistics for ostensible

Last Updated

14 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for ostensible

The first known use of ostensible was circa 1771

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More Definitions for ostensible



English Language Learners Definition of ostensible

: seeming or said to be true or real but very possibly not true or real


os·​ten·​si·​ble | \ ä-ˈsten-sə-bəl How to pronounce ostensible (audio) \

Kids Definition of ostensible

: seeming to be true : apparent The ostensible reason for the call was to chat, but then he asked for money.

Other Words from ostensible

ostensibly \ -​blē \ adverb

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Comments on ostensible

What made you want to look up ostensible? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


showing courage and determination

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