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

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?

Ostensible comes from Latin ostendere, meaning "to show," and the word 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
Recent Examples on the Web That’s the ostensible subject of Syms’ ongoing video series, which brilliantly satirizes mass media and social media, representations of Blackness and gender, and the pervasiveness of empowerment programs and surveillance culture. Lori Waxman, Chicago Tribune, 18 May 2022 John Hughes template usually demands of teen comedies, and the ostensible hero is a musical fundamentalist with too much money. Wsj Arts, WSJ, 29 Apr. 2022 However, a report from the Heritage Foundation's Daily Signal found that in Pennsylvania, some counties had reportedly used funds for 'get out the vote' efforts and for costs unrelated to the fund's ostensible goals. Lorraine Taylor, Fox News, 26 Apr. 2022 On top of that, there’s the ostensible reason for the partying: the films. Mia Galuppo, The Hollywood Reporter, 10 May 2022 CalCare was murdered like Caesar: betrayed by its ostensible allies, all of whom participated so that none of them could be fully blamed. Abdul El-sayed, The New Republic, 10 Feb. 2022 These are as much the subject of the book as its ostensible subject, piano lessons; these are life lessons. Simon Callow, The New York Review of Books, 6 Apr. 2022 The ostensible purpose of my sit-down with Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva was to talk about his department’s Latino makeup and outlook. Los Angeles Times, 24 Mar. 2022 First, there's the speed of ostensible moral change. Damon Linker, The Week, 26 Oct. 2021 See More

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.

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

Learn More About ostensible

Time Traveler for ostensible

Time Traveler

The first known use of ostensible was circa 1771

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast About ostensible

Dictionary Entries Near ostensible



ostensible partner

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for ostensible

Last Updated

27 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Ostensible.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ostensible. Accessed 27 May. 2022.

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

More Definitions for ostensible


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

More from Merriam-Webster on ostensible

Nglish: Translation of ostensible for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ostensible for Arabic Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Name That Food

  • a-light
  • Name these cookies!
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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