ple·​na·​ry | \ ˈple-nə-rē How to pronounce plenary (audio) also ˈplē- How to pronounce plenary (audio) \

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 Keynotes and plenary sessions, for instance, work very well as virtual experiences, whereas exhibit halls miss the mark. Kara Krause, Forbes, "Paving A Pathway Toward In-Person Events: Five Essential Trends For Event Organizers To Know," 26 Feb. 2021 On 6 January, Schuyler interrupted the plenary presentation of Liz Quinlan, an archaeologist and doctoral student at the University of York, about her work as the virtual conference’s accessibility coordinator. Lizzie Wade, Science | AAAS, "Archaeologist who used Nazi salute retires," 26 Jan. 2021 The president’s pardon power is plenary, but that doesn’t mean it should be wielded with no standards whatsoever. Rich Lowry, National Review, "Don’t Pardon Snowden," 18 Dec. 2020 Following Merino's resignation, Congress called for a plenary session on Sunday to discuss the appointment of the next president. Claudia Rebaza, CNN, "Peru's interim president resigns after just five days," 15 Nov. 2020 The fifth plenary session of the Central Committee has historically been used as an opportunity to discuss the country's next Five Year plan. Ben Westcott, CNN, "China's top leaders meet to plan next five years as coronavirus rebuilding begins," 26 Oct. 2020 Seven parties in the House of Representatives approved the legislation while two others rejected it, with their members walking out of the plenary session. Adi Marsiela And Niniek Karmini, The Christian Science Monitor, "Thousands of students, workers protest Indonesia labor law," 7 Oct. 2020 The parliament agreed to pass the omnibus bill on jobs in a plenary meeting on Monday. Grace Sihombing,, "Indonesia Passes Law to Simplify Labor, Investment Rules," 5 Oct. 2020 The plenary ability of individuals to come together and make political decisions for themselves was Douglas’s ultimate political value. Cameron Hilditch, National Review, "Self-Interest Is Not Enough: Lincoln’s Classical Revision of the Founding," 18 Sep. 2020

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

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Last Updated

28 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Plenary.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Mar. 2021.

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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- How to pronounce plenary (audio) \

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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