pre·​text | \ ˈprē-ˌtekst How to pronounce pretext (audio) \

Definition of pretext

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

Keep scrolling for more

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 Lavrov accused the West of trying to smear Russia and use the incident as a pretext for new sanctions against Moscow. Barnini Chakraborty, Fox News, "Navalny team found Novichok poison in Kremlin critic’s hotel room," 17 Sep. 2020 The administration’s brief accuses Philadelphia of treating religious organizations as if their faith is a pretext for bigotry. Nicholas Rowan, Washington Examiner, "Contentious gay and transgender case set for Supreme Court hearing one day after election," 9 Sep. 2020 To sum up: Liberals push to relax rules protecting ballot integrity on the pretext of protecting society’s vulnerable from Covid-19. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Rhode Island’s Senior Ballot Harvest," 7 Sep. 2020 In truth, student activism is little more than a pretext. Madeleine Kearns, National Review, "Segregation Returns to Campus," 25 Aug. 2020 Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has accused the West of using the incident as a pretext to introduce new sanctions against Moscow. Fox News, "Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny shares picture from hospital bed after suspected poisoning," 15 Sep. 2020 Entertainment payroll company Cast & Crew accused of using the pandemic as a pretext to renege on a merger with a competing firm. Michael Hytha,, "LVMH-Tiffany Busted Deal Is Year’s Biggest to End Up in Court," 10 Sep. 2020 Advocates for immigrants argue the administration is using the pandemic as a pretext to sidestep federal anti-trafficking laws and asylum protections. Nomaan Merchant, USA TODAY, "Judge orders US to stop detaining migrant children in hotels," 8 Sep. 2020 Advocates for immigrants argue the administration is using the pandemic as a pretext to sidestep federal anti-trafficking laws and asylum protections. Daniel Gonzalez, The Arizona Republic, "Judge to order US to stop detaining migrant kids in hotels," 5 Sep. 2020

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about pretext

Time Traveler for pretext

Time Traveler

The first known use of pretext was circa 1538

See more words from the same year

Statistics for pretext

Last Updated

30 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Pretext.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Oct. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for pretext


How to pronounce pretext (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of pretext

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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


Test Your Vocabulary

Challenging Vocabulary Quiz Returns!

  • stylized drawing of woman pole vaulting across gap to get trophy
  • Which is a synonym of fuliginous?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!