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

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 But the president’s attacks were widely seen as a pretext that generated as much sympathy as scorn for Comey. Eric Lichtblau, Time, "Here's Why the Inspector General's Report Was Such a Blow to James Comey," 14 June 2018 Akorn says Fresenius is blowing minor problems out of proportion to provide a pretext to abandon the deal., "Akorn Accused of Sending Phony Data to FDA on Antibiotic," 2 May 2018 The deputy attorney general, in my view, had acted dishonorably by putting out this pretext about why I was fired., "Comey Says Trump Is ‘Morally Unfit' to Be President," 16 Apr. 2018 Today’s board vote, while couched as an effort to prevent such a transaction, was pure pretext. NBC News, "CBS votes to kick out parent company National Amusements, setting up court battle," 18 May 2018 Today’s board vote, while couched as an effort to prevent such a transaction, was pure pretext. Michael J. De La Merced,, "Judge rejects CBS’s move to strip Shari Redstone’s control of company," 17 May 2018 Whatever McCabe did or didn’t do is a pretext not a reason. Benjamin Hart, Daily Intelligencer, "Jeff Sessions Fires Andrew McCabe Two Days Before Retirement," 17 Mar. 2018 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

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

12 Nov 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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