ple·​na·​ry | \ˈple-nə-rē also ˈplē- \

Definition of plenary 

1 : complete in every respect : absolute, unqualified plenary power

2 : fully attended or constituted by all entitled to be present a plenary session

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Choose the Right Synonym for plenary

full, complete, plenary, replete mean containing all that is wanted or needed or possible. full implies the presence or inclusion of everything that is wanted or required by something or that can be held, contained, or attained by it. a full schedule complete applies when all that is needed is present. a complete picture of the situation plenary adds to complete the implication of fullness without qualification. given plenary power replete implies being filled to the brim or to satiety. replete with delightful details

Did You Know?

In the 14th century, the monk Robert of Brunne described a situation in which all the knights of King Arthur's Round Table were present at court by writing, "When Arthures court was plener, and alle were comen, fer and ner. . . ." For 200 years, "plener" (also spelled "plenar") served English well for both senses that we reserve for "plenary" today. But we'd borrowed "plener" from Anglo-French, and, although the French had relied on Latin plenus ("full") for their word, the revival of interest in the Classics during the English Renaissance led scholars to prefer purer Latin origins. In the 15th century, English speakers turned to Late Latin plenarius and came up with "plenary." ("Plenarius" also comes from "plenus," which is the source of our "plenty" and "replenish" as well.)

Examples of plenary in a Sentence

A plenary meeting of the 500 members was held last summer. plenary sessions of the legislature

Recent Examples on the Web

Rolando Gomez, a spokesman for the council, confirmed that Israel was not participating in the council plenary Friday, where its seat sat empty. Washington Post, "After US, Israel also backs away from UN human rights body," 22 June 2018 Day registration is still available for plenary and other sessions at Lindsay Ellis, Houston Chronicle, "Joe Biden to speak at American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Austin," 16 Feb. 2018 At the blockbuster plenary sessions, the chairs stretched so far back that even the most youthful Silicon Valley college dropouts-turned VC hoovers had to squint to see the action up in front. Aarian Marshall, WIRED, "Home From the Honeymoon, the Self-Driving Car Industry Faces Reality," 13 July 2018 On Thursday, a plenary session of the entire parliament voted by 318 votes to 278 to reject the legal affairs committee’s fast-tracking approach. David Meyer, Fortune, "Not So Fast: Europe's Controversial New Copyright Law Was Just Held Up After an Intense Lobbying War," 5 July 2018 Three Spanish and one Italian lawmaker joined the mission as observers and plan to share their accounts at the next European plenary session July 2-5 in Strasbourg. Fox News, "The Latest: Norway joins nations accepting Lifeline migrants," 28 June 2018 As Bulgaria celebrates the 75th anniversary of the rescue of Bulgarian Jews, Borissov took part in the plenary session of the conference and met with the president of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald S. Lauder. Yossi Lempkowicz, Jewish Journal, "Netanyahu thanks Bulgarian leader for defending Israel in E.U.," 13 June 2018 Such an election was last held at a PNC plenary session in 1996 in Gaza. Washington Post, "Palestinians vote on aging leadership as Abbas tightens grip," 29 Apr. 2018 North Korea meanwhile will hold a plenary meeting of its ruling party's central committee on Friday, state media KCNA said on Thursday. Author: Joyce Lee, Stephanie Nebehay, Anchorage Daily News, "North Korea seeks ‘complete denuclearization’, South says, as U.S. vows continued pressure," 9 Apr. 2018

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

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for plenary

Middle English, from Late Latin plenarius, from Latin plenus full — more at full

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Last Updated

22 Oct 2018

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The first known use of plenary was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for plenary



English Language Learners Definition of plenary

: attended by all the people who have the right to attend

: complete in every way


ple·​na·​ry | \ˈplē-nə-rē, ˈple- \

Legal Definition of plenary 

: full and complete in every respect: as

a : absolute sense 1 plenary power

b : fully attended or constituted a plenary session of the legislature

c : including all steps in due order a plenary proceeding — compare summary

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Comments on plenary

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playful or foolish behavior

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