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

European diplomats worry that the protests will give him a pretext. The Economist, "Blame gamesAs the protests fizzle, Iran and the West consider their next move," 11 Jan. 2018 Akorn counters Fresenius is blowing minor mistakes out of proportion to create a pretext for backing out of the deal. Jef Feeley,, "Akorn's lax computer security linked to deal cancellation," 10 July 2018 Mass murderers are more likely to offer economic, religious, or political pretexts for their actions. Dante Ramos,, "‘Incel Rebellion’? How maladjustment becomes a movement," 27 Apr. 2018 On Tuesday, top White House aides described themselves as deeply anxious over the prospect that the president might use the treatment of his lawyer as a pretext to fire Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel. Julie Hirschfeld Davis And Maggie Haberman, New York Times, "At the White House, Trump Takes Selfies and Seethes Over Mueller," 10 Apr. 2018 Under the pretext of taking her to bathe, the complaint states, the child was lured away from her mother and transferred to a shelter in Connecticut. Kathleen Mcwilliams,, "Two Children Being Held In Connecticut After Separation From Parents At Border File Suit Against Government," 6 July 2018 Many still argue that conscientious objectors must be punished for the sake of national security, and that the option of alternative civilian service will lead many young men to evade the draft under the pretext of ethical principles. New York Times, "South Korea Must Offer Alternatives to Military Draft, Court Rules," 28 June 2018 But Italy and Malta held firm despite the heavy diplomatic pressure, with Italy's new interior minister, Matteo Salvini, clearly using the high seas drama as a pretext to force the hand of Italy's European neighbors. Nicole Winfield And Aritz Parra, The Christian Science Monitor, "Spain offers to accept migrant ship after Italy, Malta refuse," 11 June 2018 Ortega, like Hernández, has used the threat of gang violence as a pretext to increase police powers. Ioan Grillo, The New Republic, "When Democracy Isn’t Enough," 6 June 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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Phrases Related to pretext

on one pretext or another

Statistics for pretext

Last Updated

17 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for pretext

The first known use of pretext was circa 1538

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English Language Learners Definition of pretext

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

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Comments on pretext

What made you want to look up pretext? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


occurring twice a year or every two years

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