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
ostensible was our Word of the Day on 01/16/2012. Hear the podcast!
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
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.
Synonym Discussion of ostensible
OSTENSIBLE Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of ostensible for English Language Learners
: seeming or said to be true or real but very possibly not true or real
OSTENSIBLE Defined for Kids
Seen and Heard
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