1 : intended for display : open to view
2 : being such in appearance : plausible rather than demonstrably true or real
The ostensible reason for the meeting was to review the budget, but the whole thing was really just a ruse to get him to the surprise party.
"The ostensible purpose of federal guarantees for student loans was to make college more affordable. In fact they did the opposite, by fueling the massive tuition hikes." -- From an editorial by Jack Kelly in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, November 6, 2011
Did You Know?
Like its synonyms "apparent" and "seeming," "ostensible" implies a discrepancy between what appears to be and what actually is. "Apparent" suggests appearance to unaided senses that may not be borne out by more rigorous examination ("the apparent cause of the accident"). "Seeming" implies a character in the thing being observed that gives it the appearance of something else ("the seeming simplicity of the story"). "Ostensible," which descends from the Latin word "ostendere" ("to show"), suggests a discrepancy between a declared or implied aim or reason and the true one.
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Word Family Quiz
What relative of "ostensible" means "excessive display" or "pretentiousness"? The answer is ...
Theme music by Joshua Stamper ©2006 New Jerusalem Music/ASCAP