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

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 The scary subtext, especially amid a wave of celebrity tragedies, is that dreams of escaping this life’s pain are not always just dreams. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, "What Lives in Kanye West’s ‘Ghost Town’," 14 June 2018 The subtext was there in flashing neon letters: How could a professional interlocutor, someone with decades of experience separating fact from fiction, get taken for such a ride? Abby Ellin, Marie Claire, "I Almost Married a Con Man," 8 Jan. 2019 So what could be the subtext of this candid snapshot? Liana Satenstein, Vogue, "What Is Kendall Jenner Trying to Tell Us With Her XXL Puffer Vest?," 20 Dec. 2018 But the unspoken subtext raises a shadowy question: If Dunham was a man, if her health issue wasn’t a women’s health issue, would anyone ask if her illness was all in her head? Calin Van Paris, Vogue, "Lena Dunham Gets Real About Her Latest Surgery—And the Gender Bias Around Women’s Health Issues," 17 Oct. 2018 Adding to the release’s hilariously backpedaling subtext: its failure to even mention the name of the Outstanding Popular Film award. Devon Maloney, The Verge, "Academy backpedals on Popular Oscar idea, realizing it needs workshopping," 6 Sep. 2018 So, instead of generalizing an entire Spanish-speaking community by a using a masculine or feminine subtext, just opt for gender-neutrality. Araceli Cruz, Teen Vogue, "Merriam-Webster Dictionary Adds "Latinx" and More Than 840 Other Words," 5 Sep. 2018 In a follow-up tweet, Mr. Trump made the subtext of his argument clear, which is that the U.S. needs tough immigration laws to avoid such problems. CBS News, "Trump says crime in Germany is way up, but it's actually down," 18 June 2018

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

12 Mar 2019

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Time Traveler for subtext

The first known use of subtext was in 1862

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More from Merriam-Webster on subtext

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with subtext

Nglish: Translation of subtext for Spanish Speakers

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