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.
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 WebBitcoin prices slipped, but remained above $36,000, after the founder of the world’s largest crypto exchange, Binance, stepped down and pleaded guilty to violating criminal U.S. anti-money-laundering requirements.—WSJ, 22 Nov. 2023 The crypto exchange pleaded guilty to charges of money laundering.—Peter Vanham, Fortune, 22 Nov. 2023 Irsay, 64, pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of operating a vehicle while intoxicated after he was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated nearly ten years ago, per ESPN.—Julia Moore, Peoplemag, 22 Nov. 2023 The two have pleaded not guilty, and each face a maximum of 20 years in prison if convicted.—Ej Dickson, Rolling Stone, 21 Nov. 2023 Menendez pleaded not guilty, and a trial is set for May.—Ben Brasch, Washington Post, 21 Nov. 2023 Teen girls plead guilty in carjacking, dragging death of 73-year-old woman
Caitlin O'Kane is a digital content producer covering trending stories for CBS News and its good news brand, The Uplift.—Caitlin O'Kane, CBS News, 21 Nov. 2023 Binance itself also pleaded guilty and agreed to pay $4.3 billion in fines and restitution to the government, according to federal authorities.—Glenn Thrush, New York Times, 21 Nov. 2023 Bollea ultimately turned himself in and pleaded no contest to reckless driving with serious bodily harm and was sentenced to eight months in jail in 2008, Reuters reported.—Mirna Alsharif, NBC News, 19 Nov. 2023 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.
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."
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.