plead

verb

pleaded ˈplē-dəd How to pronounce plead (audio) or pled also plead ˈpled How to pronounce plead (audio) ; pleading

intransitive verb

1
: to argue a case or cause in a court of law
2
a
: to make an allegation in an action or other legal proceeding
especially : to answer the previous pleading of the other party by denying facts therein stated or by alleging new facts
b
: to conduct pleadings
3
: to make a plea of a specified nature
plead not guilty
4
a
: to argue for or against a claim
b
: to entreat or appeal earnestly

transitive verb

1
: to maintain (a case, a cause, etc.) in a court of law or other tribunal
2
: to allege in or by way of a legal plea
3
: to offer as a plea usually in defense, apology, or excuse
pleadable adjective
pleader noun
pleadingly adverb

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Pleaded vs. Pled

Plead belongs to the same class of verbs as bleed, lead, and feed, and like them it has a past and past participle with a short vowel spelled pled (or sometimes plead, which is pronounced alike). From the beginning, pled has faced competition from the regular form pleaded, which eventually came to predominate in mainstream British English. Pled was and is used in Scottish English, which is likely how it came to American English. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, pled was attacked by many American usage commentators (perhaps because it was not in good British use). Though still sometimes criticized, it is fully respectable today and both pled (or plead) and pleaded are in good use in the U.S. In legal use (such as “pleaded guilty,” “pled guilty”), both forms are standard, though pleaded is used with greater frequency. In nonlegal use (such as “pleaded for help”), pleaded appears more commonly, though pled is also considered standard.

Examples of plead in a Sentence

He begged and pleaded, but she would not change her mind. She couldn't afford a lawyer to plead her case. “How do you plead?” asked the judge. “We plead guilty, Your Honor.” He agreed to plead to a lesser charge of manslaughter.
Recent Examples on the Web Parenting YouTuber Ruby Franke and her business parter Jodi Hildebrandt, who pleaded guilty to child abuse charges that stemmed from one of Franke's children escaping Hildebrandt's house in August to beg a neighbor for help, have been sentenced. Kerry Breen, CBS News, 20 Feb. 2024 Now Truman has pleaded guilty to assault with a dangerous weapon, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia announced in a Feb. 15 news release. Julia Marnin, Miami Herald, 20 Feb. 2024 The performer, who portrayed Tim Allen's eldest son, Brad Taylor, on Home Improvement, was previously arrested in 2020 for assault against his ex-girlfriend, Johnnie Faye Cartwright, before pleading guilty to misdemeanors for menacing and assault. Joey Nolfi, EW.com, 19 Feb. 2024 Nicholas Andrew Burg, 31, pleaded guilty in Vista Superior Court to second-degree murder in the death of Robert Berry Pierce, 56. City News Service, San Diego Union-Tribune, 17 Feb. 2024 McGonigal pleaded guilty in September to concealing material facts, a charge punishable by a maximum prison sentence of five years. Michael Kunzelman The Associated Press, arkansasonline.com, 17 Feb. 2024 In the Ojai City Council chambers, one speaker held her cellphone up to the microphone, playing the recorded screams of a frightened child pleading for help as gunfire blasted nearby. Hailey Branson-Potts, Los Angeles Times, 16 Feb. 2024 Le was indicted on Aug. 26, 2021, and pleaded guilty to the wire fraud counts on Nov. 9, 2023. Jason Green, The Mercury News, 16 Feb. 2024 Five of the 11 defendants originally charged in the case have pleaded guilty and face life sentences for conspiring to assassinate Moïse. Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald, 9 Feb. 2024 See More

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

Word History

Etymology

Middle English plaiden, pleden "to contend legally, argue in court, bring suit, answer a charge," borrowed from Anglo-French plaider, pleider, pleder "to maintain (a plea), bring an action against" (also continental Old French), verbal derivative of plaid, plé "action at law, plea."

Note: Middle English also had with the same senses pleten, from Anglo-French pleiter, pleter, formed from the variant noun pleit with final t (presumably evident when a vowel-initial word followed in Old French), which continued into early Modern English as plete, pleat.

First Known Use

13th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of plead was in the 13th century

Dictionary Entries Near plead

Cite this Entry

“Plead.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/plead. Accessed 1 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition

plead

verb
pleaded ˈplēd-əd How to pronounce plead (audio) or pled
ˈpled
; pleading
1
: to argue a case in a court of law
2
: to answer to a claim or charge in a court of law
plead not guilty
3
a
: to argue for or against a claim
plead a case before a jury
b
: to appeal earnestly : beg
4
: to offer as a defense, apology, or excuse
plead sickness
pleader noun

Legal Definition

plead

verb
pleaded or pled also plead ˈpled How to pronounce plead (audio) ; pleading

intransitive verb

1
: to make an allegation in an action or other legal proceeding
especially : to answer the pleading or charge of the other party by denying facts therein stated or by alleging new facts
the defendant shall be given a copy of the indictment or information before the defendant is called upon to plead Kansas Statutes Annotated
see also alternative
2
: to make a specific plea
plead not guilty
also : to make a plea of guilty
agreed to plead to the lesser charge

transitive verb

1
: to allege in or by way of a pleading : state in a pleading
unless plaintiff pleads and proves facts showing actual malice, he cannot recover punitive damagesKumaran v. Brotman, 617 N.E.2d 191 (1993)
plead a case of fraudulent conveyance
2
: to offer as an excuse
cannot plead ignorance of the law
pleadable adjective
pleader noun
Etymology

Anglo-French plaider to argue in a court of law, from Old French plaid legal action, trial more at plea

More from Merriam-Webster on plead

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