pli·​ant ˈplī-ənt How to pronounce pliant (audio)
: easily influenced : yielding
: suitable for varied uses
pliantly adverb
pliantness noun
Choose the Right Synonym for pliant

plastic, pliable, pliant, ductile, malleable, adaptable mean susceptible of being modified in form or nature.

plastic applies to substances soft enough to be molded yet capable of hardening into the desired fixed form.

plastic materials allow the sculptor greater freedom

pliable suggests something easily bent, folded, twisted, or manipulated.

pliable rubber tubing

pliant may stress flexibility and sometimes connote springiness.

an athletic shoe with a pliant sole

ductile applies to what can be drawn out or extended with ease.

ductile metals such as copper

malleable applies to what may be pressed or beaten into shape.

the malleable properties of gold

adaptable implies the capability of being easily modified to suit other conditions, needs, or uses.

computer hardware that is adaptable

Examples of pliant in a Sentence

a pliant Congress that will do whatever the President wants a pliant branch bent low with the weight of ripe fruit
Recent Examples on the Web But thanks to a Florida judge evidently in Trump’s back pocket, the blundering of a Georgia prosecutor and a pliant U.S. Supreme Court, none of the ex-president’s other criminal cases are likely to reach a jury in time for a verdict before Nov. 5. Mark Z. Barabak, Los Angeles Times, 4 June 2024 But most clerics are pliant, and a vocal minority are even more extreme than their patriarch. Robert F. Worth, The Atlantic, 10 Apr. 2024 News outlets that for so long had been pliant to Castro could not ignore the outcry. Elliot Ackerman, WIRED, 6 Feb. 2024 Apollonia had evolved from feisty but pliant Galatea to confident creative force. Julian Lucas, The New Yorker, 8 Jan. 2024 The fans brought up onstage to learn choreography with Jayne were happy and pliant. Doreen St. Félix, The New Yorker, 17 Nov. 2023 Karyn Kusama was behind the camera, making minute, courteous corrections to the angles and expressions of the actors’ pliant faces over the course of two scenes. Lydia Kiesling, New York Times, 1 Apr. 2023 Charlene has brought along her school-age daughter, Rainey, and her infant son, whom Charlene quickly hands off to the pliant newcomer. Heller McAlpin, The Christian Science Monitor, 1 Nov. 2023 Prosecutions Trump could certainly appoint a pliant attorney general and federal prosecutors who would investigate his political opponents. Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times, 24 Sep. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'pliant.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English pliaunt, borrowed from Anglo-French pliant, plyaunt "able to be bent or folded, obedient, compliant," from present participle of plier "to fold, bend" — more at ply entry 3

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of pliant was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near pliant

Cite this Entry

“Pliant.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


pli·​ant ˈplī-ənt How to pronounce pliant (audio)
: pliable sense 1, flexible
pliant willow twigs
: adjusting to changing conditions : adaptable
pliantly adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on pliant

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