pre·​text | \ ˈprē-ˌtekst \

Definition of pretext 

: a purpose or motive alleged or an appearance assumed in order to cloak the real intention or state of affairs

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Choose the Right Synonym for pretext

apology, apologia, excuse, plea, pretext, alibi mean matter offered in explanation or defense. apology usually applies to an expression of regret for a mistake or wrong with implied admission of guilt or fault and with or without reference to mitigating or extenuating circumstances. said by way of apology that he would have met them if he could apologia implies not admission of guilt or regret but a desire to make clear the grounds for some course, belief, or position. his speech was an apologia for his foreign policy excuse implies an intent to avoid or remove blame or censure. used illness as an excuse for missing the meeting plea stresses argument or appeal for understanding or sympathy or mercy. her usual plea that she was nearsighted pretext suggests subterfuge and the offering of false reasons or motives in excuse or explanation. used any pretext to get out of work alibi implies a desire to shift blame or evade punishment and imputes mere plausibility to the explanation. his alibi failed to stand scrutiny

Examples of pretext in a Sentence

She went back to her friend's house on the pretext that she had forgotten her purse.

Recent Examples on the Web

For instance, imposing stricter limits on the president’s power to set tariffs based on the Trade Expansion Act would put a check on Mr. Trump’s abuses, such as his plan to tax imported cars under the pretext of national security. Ed Gerwin, WSJ, "Trump’s Tariffs Give Democrats a Chance to Lead on Trade," 21 Oct. 2018 By curbing donations, the DOC uses supposed drug smuggling as a pretext for denying prisoners the pursuit of knowledge, happiness, and personal betterment. Constance Grady, Vox, "The time has come to choose the Oddest Book Title of the Year," 3 Nov. 2018 Colonna’s grief was real and not merely a poetic pretext. Cammy Brothers, WSJ, "‘Renaissance Woman’ Review: A Lady of Letters," 27 Apr. 2018 The governments of Russia and Syria have dismissed the reports of a poison gas attack in Duma as a pretext to attack Assad's forces. Alexandra Zavis,, "In Syria's capital, U.S. strikes packed a jolt but didn't shake government's resolve," 14 Apr. 2018 Over the summer, some auto makers pre-emptively sent out letters through their legal departments, warning suppliers that the tariffs shouldn’t be a pretext for renegotiating price agreements, say executives and attorneys who were contacted. Mike Colias, WSJ, "Trump Tariffs Pit Auto Companies Against Each Other," 9 Nov. 2018 The technical details of the video, whether it was doctored or not, were a pretext for Trump’s continued attacks on the press. Bijan Stephen, The Verge, "The White House used a doctored video to tell a lie," 8 Nov. 2018 But there was pretext according to some of these people. Fox News, "Women who know Kavanaugh respond to allegations against him," 17 Sep. 2018 In both the annexation of Crimea and its actions in Ukraine, the Russian government has used protecting the rights of ethnic Russians as a pretext for intervention. Marc Santora, New York Times, "Trump Derides NATO as ‘Obsolete.’ Baltic Nations See It Much Differently.," 10 July 2018

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

circa 1538, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for pretext

Latin praetextus, from praetexere to assign as a pretext, screen, extend in front, from prae- + texere to weave — more at technical

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Statistics for pretext

Last Updated

8 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for pretext

The first known use of pretext was circa 1538

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More Definitions for pretext



English Language Learners Definition of pretext

: a reason that you give to hide your real reason for doing something

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More from Merriam-Webster on pretext

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with pretext

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for pretext

Spanish Central: Translation of pretext

Nglish: Translation of pretext for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of pretext for Arabic Speakers

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