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

Example Sentences

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 Hers is the kind of face that inspires directors to tight framing — gleaming, as if smoothed from marble, and yet somehow pliant, changeful. Jordan Kisner Jack Davison, New York Times, 11 Oct. 2022 Adversarial eyeballs in the executive branch and in Congress, and a much less pliant press than in Hoover’s day, mean that secrecy is harder to maintain. Jack Goldsmith, The Atlantic, 22 Nov. 2022 Few materials in nature are as strong yet also as pliant as spider silk. Discover Magazine, 29 June 2010 Likewise, the Tractive adaptive dampers again have five settings, adjusted via a rotary knob on the center console, but here are tuned for a more pliant ride. Tim Pitt, Robb Report, 15 Dec. 2022 In Moscow, the decision to attack Ukraine was taken by President Putin and a small group of pliant advisers. Ned Temko, The Christian Science Monitor, 8 Dec. 2022 His tone is a pliant one — most often gracefully sumptuous, but also agile and, crucially for the Met, penetrating at both a boom and a whisper. Joshua Barone, New York Times, 13 Nov. 2022 With its compromised courts and pliant legal system, Cambodia has been plagued with exploitation, by foreigners and by its own citizens. Hannah Beech Nadia Shira Cohen, New York Times, 26 Nov. 2022 The main German characters were bumbling camp commandant Colonel Klink, played by Werner Klemperer, and pliant guard Sergeant Schultz, played by John Banner. Reuters, CNN, 18 Nov. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'pliant.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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 30 Jan. 2023.

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

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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