ostensible

adjective
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

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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 Mishra is fond of this sort of deft grafting of two distinct histories, offering a revisionist understanding of both, a reminder that liberalism’s ostensible successes often owed very little to liberalism. Kanishk Tharoor, The New Republic, "Pankaj Mishra’s Reckoning With Liberalism’s Bloody Past," 22 Feb. 2021 Still, that’s a notable miss for this ostensible heavyweight. Nate Jones, Vulture, "Oscar Futures: After Globe and SAG Noms, the Race Finally Gets Real," 5 Feb. 2021 The budget crisis was the ostensible reason the alliance between Netanyahu’s Likud party and Gantz’s Blue and White unraveled. Time, "Netanyahu’s Coalition Government Collapses After Budget Bill Failure – Triggering Israel’s 4th Election in 2 Years," 23 Dec. 2020 Freedom from the Market is supremely indifferent to the tendency of government systems, such as higher education, to operate more for their providers than their ostensible beneficiaries. Stephen Eide, National Review, "America’s Supposedly Socialist History," 15 Jan. 2021 Gates takes heart in the fact that some of 2020’s ostensible failures have in fact been critical successes. Jeffrey Kluger, Time, "What Bill Gates Thinks About the State of the Fight Against COVID-19," 22 Dec. 2020 The budget crisis was the ostensible reason the alliance between Netanyahu’s Likud party and Gantz’s Blue and White unraveled. Time, "Netanyahu’s Coalition Government Collapses After Budget Bill Failure – Triggering Israel’s 4th Election in 2 Years," 23 Dec. 2020 The ostensible goal of the Building Bridges Initiative is to resolve Kenya’s perennial election fraud problem. Westen K Shilaho, Quartz Africa, "Kenyans should reject the latest round of proposed constitutional changes," 7 Dec. 2020 Seduced by tech’s lucre and ostensible utopianism, Wiener moved West, where life proved eerily comfortable for a hard-driving Millennial. Chloe Schama, Vogue, "The Best Books Vogue Editors Read in 2020," 24 Dec. 2020

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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Time Traveler for ostensible

Time Traveler

The first known use of ostensible was circa 1771

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Last Updated

4 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Ostensible.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ostensible. Accessed 5 Mar. 2021.

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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 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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