subtext

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

Definition of subtext

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

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Other Words from subtext

subtextual \ ˌsəb-​ˈteks-​chə-​wəl How to pronounce subtextual (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

Soon, the subtext of all of these recent connections will be made apparent. Randon Rosenbohm, Allure, "What May’s Aries Horoscope Means for You," 30 Apr. 2019 Anna’s is a quieter role, with fewer dramatic speeches but with a tempestuous subtext. Jason Zinoman, Vogue, "In Burn This, Adam Driver and Keri Russell Find Love in a Hopeless Place," 15 Apr. 2019 This willingness to dig into the darker subtext at play in its universe is what makes F Is for Family worth watching. Todd Vanderwerff, Vox, "Netflix’s F Is for Family examines the dark core of the angry sitcom dad," 2 Dec. 2018 That’s a message perhaps best left to subtext at a ceremony involving one of the world’s most prominent ruling families. Lily Rothman, Time, "Rev. Michael Curry's Royal Wedding Sermon Included a Martin Luther King Jr. Quote. Here's Its Surprising Political Message," 19 May 2018 Instead, the film’s best and worst attribute is its absolute rejection of subtext. Adi Robertson, The Verge, "Assassination Nation is a vicious, cathartic horror film about misogyny," 21 Sep. 2018 Certainly, some beautiful monologues from Jared Leto’s Niander Wallace about creation lack nuance, but considering this movie is looking at a $40 million debut, the whole thing can't be told through subtext. Matt Miller, Esquire, "Blade Runner 2049 Is the Triumphant Sequel Fans Deserve," 29 Sep. 2017 The men were based off real-life killers Leopold and Loeb, although any reference to the characters' homosexuality was expressed through subtext. Nico Lang, Harper's BAZAAR, "Disney's Long, Complicated History with Queer Characters," 21 Mar. 2017 The subtext of these pieces is always the same: Please, for god’s sake, could someone just care? Maya Singer, Vogue, "Is There Really Such a Thing as “Ethical Consumerism?”," 4 Feb. 2019

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.

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First Known Use of subtext

1862, in the meaning defined above

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Statistics for subtext

Last Updated

7 May 2019

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Time Traveler for subtext

The first known use of subtext was in 1862

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Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with subtext

Nglish: Translation of subtext for Spanish Speakers

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