\ˈplē \

Definition of plea 

1 : a legal suit or action

2 : an allegation made by a party in support of a cause: such as

a : an allegation of fact — compare demurrer entry 1

b(1) : a defendant's answer to a plaintiff's declaration in common-law practice

(2) : an accused person's answer to a charge or indictment in criminal practice

c : a plea of guilty to an indictment

3 : something offered by way of excuse or justification left early with the plea of a headache

4 : an earnest entreaty : appeal their plea for understanding must be answered

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Choose the Right Synonym for plea

apology, apologia, excuse, plea, pretext, alibi mean matter offered in explanation or defense. apology usually applies to an expression of regret for a mistake or wrong with implied admission of guilt or fault and with or without reference to mitigating or extenuating circumstances. said by way of apology that he would have met them if he could apologia implies not admission of guilt or regret but a desire to make clear the grounds for some course, belief, or position. his speech was an apologia for his foreign policy excuse implies an intent to avoid or remove blame or censure. used illness as an excuse for missing the meeting plea stresses argument or appeal for understanding or sympathy or mercy. her usual plea that she was nearsighted pretext suggests subterfuge and the offering of false reasons or motives in excuse or explanation. used any pretext to get out of work alibi implies a desire to shift blame or evade punishment and imputes mere plausibility to the explanation. his alibi failed to stand scrutiny

Examples of plea in a Sentence

We are making a plea to all companies to stop polluting the environment. The defendant entered a plea of not guilty.

Recent Examples on the Web

Second, there was the draft document outlining a false statements charge against conservative commentator Jerome Corsi, who leaked it last month after Mueller’s team provided it to him as part of plea deal talks. Andrew Prokop, Vox, "The Mueller investigation has gotten closer to Donald Trump," 6 Dec. 2018 The measure affords crime victims a series of rights, including to confer with prosecutors and to be notified about plea negotiations and sentencing. Julie K. Brown, The Seattle Times, "Perversion of Justice: Even from jail, sex abuser manipulated the system. His victims were kept in the dark," 4 Dec. 2018 DerpTrolling was potentially implicated in taking down the Sony PlayStation network, and the plea statement apparently confirms this, naming Sony Online Entertainment as one of the companies affected. Adi Robertson, The Verge, "The man behind a spree of gaming network cyberattacks has pleaded guilty," 7 Nov. 2018 And now, as election day is finally upon us, Swift is making one final plea to get people to vote. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, "Watch Taylor Swift Make One Last Plea to Get You to Vote," 6 Nov. 2018 Mayor Hermione Lodge looks moved by her daughter’s pleas, but says nothing. Jessica Macleish, Teen Vogue, ""Riverdale" Recap Season 3 Episode 1: Does Archie Go to Jail?," 11 Oct. 2018 Perhaps the most high-profile of those guilty pleas came from Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Andrew O'reilly, Fox News, "Bill Clinton says impeachment hearings would have begun already if a Democrat were president," 2 Oct. 2018 Mueller’s investigation has also secured other guilty pleas. Rob Tornoe,, "Ahead of Trump's meeting with Putin, Mueller indicts 12 Russians for hacking DNC emails," 13 July 2018 Recktenwald said there has been one indictment each in Jefferson, Fayette and Warren counties, with the Bowling Green case producing a guilty plea and a 12-year sentence. Andrew Wolfson, The Courier-Journal, "Andy Beshear claims rape kit test backlog is fixed, but prosecutions still lag," 9 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'plea.' 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 plea

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for plea

Middle English ple, plede, from Anglo-French plai, pleit from Medieval Latin placitum, from Latin, decision, decree, from neuter of placitus, past participle of placēre to please, be decided — more at please

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Dictionary Entries near plea





plea bargaining



Statistics for plea

Last Updated

9 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for plea

The first known use of plea was in the 13th century

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More Definitions for plea



English Language Learners Definition of plea

: a serious and emotional request for something

law : a statement in which a person who has been accused of a crime says in court that he or she is guilty or not guilty of the crime

: a statement in which a person says that he or she is guilty of a particular crime : a plea of guilty


\ˈplē \

Kids Definition of plea

1 : an earnest appeal The prisoner made a plea for mercy.

2 : something offered as a defense or excuse


\ˈplē \

Legal Definition of plea 

1a : an allegation of fact in civil litigation made in response to a claim — compare demurrer

b : a defendant's answer to a plaintiff's claim in civil litigation

Note: Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and in states where they have been adopted, civil pleas are abolished, and answers and motions are used instead. Such pleas were used at common law.

dilatory plea \ˈdi-​lə-​ˌtōr-​ē-​ \

: a common-law plea which is intended to defeat the pending action or proceeding without involving any decision on the merits of the case

plea in abatement

: a plea entered by a party seeking postponement or dismissal of an action by setting forth some matter or defect regarding procedure, jurisdiction, or timing

called also plea of abatement

plea in bar

: a plea that alleges the existence of an absolute bar (as a statute of limitations) to an action

plea of abatement

: plea in abatement in this entry

2a : an accused party's answer to a criminal charge or indictment

b : a plea of guilty

3 : an earnest entreaty

History and Etymology for plea

Anglo-French plei plai legal action, trial, from Old French plait plaid, from Medieval Latin placitum, from Latin, decision, decree, from neuter of placitus, past participle of placēre to please, be decided

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More from Merriam-Webster on plea

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with plea

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for plea

Spanish Central: Translation of plea

Nglish: Translation of plea for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of plea for Arabic Speakers

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