plau·​si·​ble ˈplȯ-zə-bəl How to pronounce plausible (audio)
: superficially fair, reasonable, or valuable but often deceptively so
a plausible pretext
: superficially pleasing or persuasive
a swindler …  , then a quack, then a smooth, plausible gentlemanRalph Waldo Emerson
: appearing worthy of belief
the argument was both powerful and plausible
plausibleness noun
plausibly adverb

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You Can Believe This History of Plausible

Put your hands together for plausible, a word with a sonorous history. Today the word usually means "reasonable" or "believable," but its origins lie in the sensory realm, rather than that of the mind. In fact, plausible comes to us from the Latin adjective plausibilis, meaning "worthy of applause," which in turn derives from the verb plaudere, meaning "to applaud or clap." Other plaudere words include applaud, plaudit (the earliest meaning of which was "a round of applause"), and explode (from the Latin explodere, meaning "to drive off the stage by clapping"). Will the evolution of plaudere continue? Quite plausibly, and to that we say "Bravo."

Examples of plausible in a Sentence

In our solar system, the biggest moon is Jupiter's Ganymede, which has a mass only 2.5 percent that of Earth—too small to easily hang on to an Earth-like atmosphere. But I realized that there are plausible ways for moons approaching the mass of Earth to form in other planetary systems, potentially around giant planets within their stars' habitable zones, where such moons could have atmospheres similar to our own planet. René Heller, Scientific American, January 2015
I watch the ospreys who nest on Perch Island high atop their white spruce. Our sense of a plausible summer depends much on their diligent success at nest-building and procreation, and on their chicks fledging in late August. Richard Ford, Wall Street Journal, 14-15 June 2008
… I'd mastered the quick size-up. Does the person seem agreeable over coffee at the drugstore counter and picking up his mail at the post office, drive a plausible vehicle, and know the weather forecast? Edward Hoagland, Harper's, June 2007
… string theorists can exhibit plausible models of a unified Universe, but unfortunately they cannot explain why we inhabit a particular one. Michael Atiyah, Nature, 22-29 Dec. 2005
it's a plausible explanation for the demise of that prehistoric species
Recent Examples on the Web To put it another way, disinformation peddlers need only make a claim that sounds plausible or might even have a small kernel of truth to influence the unwary. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 22 Feb. 2024 Scams and phishing attacks could become more sophisticated, for example, by using deepfake videos to make fraudulent activities seem more legitimate or plausible. Bernard Marr, Forbes, 20 Feb. 2024 The key to safe and effective robots is the right connection between that plausible chatter and a robot's body. David Berreby, Scientific American, 20 Feb. 2024 Part of it is that this is just how the tradition works: Jews are commanded to practice, not to believe, so each successive generation is required to gin up some plausible reasons why, exactly, the balls ought to be kept in the air. Gideon Lewis-Kraus, The New Yorker, 15 Feb. 2024 While the perceptive Moon in your sharing sector aligns with relaxed Venus in your responsible 6th house, shedding the mindset that life must be difficult can reveal plausible and mutually beneficial opportunities right under your nose., Baltimore Sun, 11 Feb. 2024 Gone are the days of sidestepping via white lies to present a clean medical record while giving the military plausible deniability. Luther Ray Abel, National Review, 9 Feb. 2024 For the purposes of the hearing, South Africa didn’t need to prove that Israel is committing genocide—only that the risk of genocide is plausible enough to warrant emergency measures. Masha Gessen, The New Yorker, 7 Feb. 2024 After an exhaustive process of elimination, scientists singled out a sizable layer of electrically conductive fluid—that is, a salty liquid-water ocean—as the signal’s only plausible explanation. Robin George Andrews, Scientific American, 7 Feb. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'plausible.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Latin plausibilis worthy of applause, from plausus, past participle of plaudere

First Known Use

1565, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of plausible was in 1565


Dictionary Entries Near plausible

Cite this Entry

“Plausible.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


plau·​si·​ble ˈplȯ-zə-bəl How to pronounce plausible (audio)
: seemingly fair, reasonable, or valuable but often not so
a plausible excuse
: appearing worthy of belief
the argument was both plausible and powerful
plausibly adverb

from Latin plausibilis "deserving applause, pleasing," from plausus, past participle of plaudere "to clap" — related to applaud, explode, plaudit see Word History at explode

Word Origin
A plausible explanation is one that sounds as if it could be true. Such an explanation is not usually greeted with applause, but the origin of plausible suggests that it might be. Plausible comes from the Latin word plausibilis, meaning "worthy of applause." The first use of plausible in English was to describe a person or thing that deserved special praise. That use is now obsolete. To call something plausible now is to praise it only slightly, if at all.

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