sub·​text | \ ˈsəb-ˌtekst How to pronounce subtext (audio) \

Definition of subtext

: the implicit or metaphorical meaning (as of a literary text)

Keep scrolling for more

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from subtext

subtextual \ ˌsəb-​ˈteks-​chə-​wəl How to pronounce subtext (audio) , -​chəl \ adjective
subtextually adverb

Did you know?

A literary text often has more than one meaning: the literal meaning of the words on the page, and their hidden meaning, what exists "between the lines"—the subtext. Arthur Miller's play The Crucible, for example, is about the Salem witchcraft trials of the 17th century, but its subtext is the comparison of those trials with the "witch hunts" of the 1950s, when many people were unfairly accused of being communists. Even a social conversation between a man and a woman may have a subtext, but you may have to listen very closely to figure out what it is. Don't confuse subtext with subplot, a less important plot that moves along in parallel with the main plot.

Examples of subtext in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web And those financial concerns are the subtext for Haller’s entire case. Bob Herman, STAT, 29 Apr. 2022 That was the subtext of Biden's travel last week to demonstrate solidarity with European allies in NATO. John Harwood, CNN, 27 Mar. 2022 The stark contrast between his message and the ongoing destruction of Ukrainian cities was the subtext of a question about what Russian artists and Americans can do. Los Angeles Times, 8 Mar. 2022 That’s traditionally been a subtext regarding the Caped Crusader and the Clown Prince of Crime. David Fear, Rolling Stone, 28 Feb. 2022 In those words, the subtext is not about the soldiers. Maureen Lee Lenker,, 4 Apr. 2022 So Carter doesn't say outright the DOJ and other courts should be dealing with accountability too, but his subtext is clear. Zachary B. Wolf, CNN, 28 Mar. 2022 Along with its theatrical subtext, the film explores the complicated nature of memory and mourning. Patrick Ryan, USA TODAY, 2 Mar. 2022 The deft dialogue and subtext and the imagination of the audience do an exhilarating amount of work. David Benedict, Variety, 16 Mar. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'subtext.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Keep scrolling for more

First Known Use of subtext

1862, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More About subtext

Time Traveler for subtext

Time Traveler

The first known use of subtext was in 1862

See more words from the same year

Dictionary Entries Near subtext




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for subtext

Last Updated

17 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Subtext.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 May. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More from Merriam-Webster on subtext

Nglish: Translation of subtext for Spanish Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Which Word Does Not Belong?

  • one green toy robot amidst many red toy robots
  • Which of these words does not mean "nonsense"?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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