ostensible

adjective
os·ten·si·ble | \ä-ˈsten(t)-sə-bəl, 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

The ostensible purpose of all these meetings was to work out arms-control agreements, and the two had made significant progress. Roger Kimball, WSJ, "When Reagan Met Lenin," 30 May 2018 Many were delighted to see this ostensible paragon of virtue take a fall. Dwight Garner, New York Times, "A New Biography Traces Tiger Woods’s Mythical Rise and Fall," 19 Mar. 2018 The current program has ostensible work requirements that states have managed to elude. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "A Food Fight Worth Having," 8 July 2018 Ditko’s ostensible line in the sand was a bizarre and telling example of his strict principles and of his emphasis on realism even within the technicolor pages of comic books. David Sims, The Atlantic, "Steve Ditko’s Ordinary People," 10 July 2018 With its rhetoric Saturday, the regime tried to drive that home, objecting to Pompeo’s demand that denuclearization be complete and verifiable — even though that has been the administration’s ostensible objective all along. NBC News, "North Korea shatters Trump's boastful assurances of an easy path to denuclearization," 7 July 2018 Neruda’s gift is lyrical, not narrative, and his ostensible epic, on inspection, is so many lyrics in historically chronological order. Benjamin Kunkel, The New Republic, "The partisan world of Pablo Neruda," 2 July 2018 What has happened in between — to Leland, to Reggie, to the briefcase — are the mysteries that serve as the novel’s ostensible plot. New York Times, "This Novel Opens With a Suicide and a Suitcase of Cash. Then Things Get Really Interesting.," 21 June 2018 In Pereyra’s hands, Rosalind’s love is always obvious; Orlando therefore necessarily knows that the ostensible boy teaching him how to love is really Rosalind in disguise. Mike Fischer, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "American Players Theatre's comedy 'As You Like It' makes every word count," 19 June 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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Last Updated

6 Sep 2018

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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

ostensible

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of ostensible

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

ostensible

adjective
os·ten·si·ble | \ä-ˈsten-sə-bəl \

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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