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

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 All County’s ostensible purpose was to be the purchasing agent for Fred Trump’s buildings, buying everything from boilers to cleaning supplies. Matthew Yglesias, Vox, "Seriously, we need to see Donald Trump’s tax returns," 3 Oct. 2018 All County’s ostensible purpose was to be the purchasing agent for Fred Trump’s buildings, buying everything from boilers to cleaning supplies. Susanne Craig, The Seattle Times, "Trump engaged in suspect tax schemes as he reaped riches from father," 2 Oct. 2018 The ostensible purpose for this would be to add a literary dimension of psychological and narrative complexity. Mike Hale, New York Times, "Review: ‘The Affair’ Is Back, and Things Are About to Get Crazy. Again.," 14 June 2018 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

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

29 Nov 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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