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 Invariably, there’s a series of talks and poster presentations, a few plenary sessions by prominent scientists, several workshops, a marketplace of company booths, and many, many networking events. Esther Ngumbi, Wired, "Science Conferences Are Stuck in the Dark Ages," 3 Jan. 2020 Its plenary hall, the scene of stormy debates on legislation, sat eerily empty. Ruth Eglash, Washington Post, "In Israel, a year of political limbo is exacting a toll," 27 Dec. 2019 Cobb was invited to be the plenary speaker wrapping up a major ocean sciences conference next year in San Diego. Seth Borenstein,, "Flight shaming poses threat to airlines: Climate activists, scientists cutting back on air travel," 9 Dec. 2019 The conduct of foreign relations is a near-plenary power of the chief executive. Andrew C. Mccarthy, National Review, "If the House Won’t Vote, Impeachment Inquiry Is Just a Democratic Stunt," 5 Oct. 2019 All plenary sessions will be made available via live stream on Tanya A. Christian, Essence, "Michelle Obama Heads To Southeast Asia To Expand On Obama Foundation Mission," 2 Dec. 2019 Bolsonaro was in the country’s capital of Brasilia that day for two plenary votes, the program reported., "But now their alleged plot appears to have embroiled a new figure: Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.," 31 Oct. 2019 Bolsonaro was in the country’s capital of Brasilia that day for two plenary votes, the report said. Teo Armus, Washington Post, "'This will not stick’: Brazilian president lashes out at media over links to left-wing politician’s murder," 30 Oct. 2019 In this March 14, 2018, file photo, former NBA basketball player Yao Ming (center) leaves after a plenary session of the CPPCC at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Column: NBA did in China what pretty much every other U.S. business has: It kowtowed," 7 Oct. 2019

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

15 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Plenary.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 23 January 2020.

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More Definitions for plenary


How to pronounce plenary (audio) How to pronounce plenary (audio)

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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More from Merriam-Webster on plenary

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for plenary

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with plenary

Britannica English: Translation of plenary for Arabic Speakers

Comments on plenary

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out of the ordinary or unreasonable

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