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

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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 Biden accused Trump of lying about an impending threat to U.S. embassies as a pretext for the attack that killed Soleimani. Todd J. Gillman, Dallas News, "Democrats play it safe and other takeaways from final debate before Iowa and impeachment trial," 14 Jan. 2020 Undercover officers visited Bajwa’s office in Fairfax in 2018 and obtained Adderall prescriptions under flimsy pretexts, an FBI affidavit said. Washington Post, "Virginia doctor faces federal prescription fraud charges," 9 Jan. 2020 It cannot be used as a pretext for expressing any opinion. Arnaud Montreuil, Quartz at Work, "Is the world ready for politicians to dress in workplace casual?," 20 Nov. 2019 Such violations can serve as a pretext for officers to look for more serious wrongdoing. Ben Poston, Los Angeles Times, "LAPD searches blacks and Latinos more. But they’re less likely to have contraband than whites," 8 Oct. 2019 The lower courts have found that assertion a pretext, but had not identified the administration’s actual motive for adding a question that statisticians believe will discourage responses from households that include immigrants. Jess Bravin, WSJ, "Judge to Review Motive of Trump Administration Census Citizenship Question," 25 June 2019 The Bengals thought that the Patriots docu-series was a flimsy pretext. Globe Staff,, "Is this Patriots victory a quick fix or a bad sign?," 15 Dec. 2019 Helping veterans was the pretext, not the priority. Steve Chapman,, "Column: Trump Foundation’s shocking graft is a big scandal, but a forgotten one," 13 Nov. 2019 Farrow recounts that, in 2010, Lauer used a business pretext to get her away from a company cocktail party. Marisa Guthrie, The Hollywood Reporter, "Former 'Today' Show Producer Melissa Lonner Alleges Matt Lauer Exposed Himself to Her," 15 Oct. 2019

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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Time Traveler for pretext

Time Traveler

The first known use of pretext was circa 1538

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Statistics for pretext

Last Updated

22 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Pretext.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 24 January 2020.

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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

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More from Merriam-Webster on pretext

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for pretext

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with pretext

Spanish Central: Translation of pretext

Nglish: Translation of pretext for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of pretext for Arabic Speakers

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).


a feeling of well-being or elation

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