plight

1 of 3

verb

plighted; plighting; plights

transitive verb

: to put or give in pledge : engage
plight his troth
plighter noun

plight

2 of 3

noun (1)

: a solemnly given pledge : engagement

plight

3 of 3

noun (2)

: an unfortunate, difficult, or precarious situation

Examples of plight in a Sentence

Noun (2) Huckelberry decided to use the owl's plight as the impetus to craft a comprehensive conservation plan. Terry McCarthy, Time, 4 Apr. 2005
It's a sign of where the health-care debate has gone that truly big dilemmas—like the plight of the 42.6 million people still uninsured or the future of Medicare—are taking a back seat to what was only recently a relatively minor campaign issue. Jonathan Alter, Newsweek, 9 Oct. 2000
New political arrangements helped do in both Uruguay and New Zealand, and behind those arrangements are the plights of western Europe's old agricultural supply regions, especially those of France. Jane Jacobs, Cities and the Wealth of Nations, 1984
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
The plight of the hostages has profoundly shaken Israelis and the government has made freeing the dozens of remaining captives a top aim of its war, along with destroying Hamas' military and governing capabilities. TIME, 12 Feb. 2024 Yet as the film documenting his plight, Bobi Wine: The People’s President (formerly titled Bobi Wine: Ghetto President), received an Academy Award nomination for best documentary feature on Jan. 23, Wine was living out a harsh reality of his political activism and a reminder of its necessity. Brande Victorian, The Hollywood Reporter, 8 Feb. 2024 Ruth Greenberg’s screenplay does a fine job of illustrating the plight of refugees and the misguidedness of colonizers, a message that takes shape after Adem (Chuku Modu), the clan’s brutish leader, has his 11-year-old son Heron snatched in the dark. Randy Myers, The Mercury News, 7 Feb. 2024 The Black-Jewish alliance For decades, leaders of African American social movements have identified their struggle with the plight of the Jews. Clyde McGrady, New York Times, 6 Feb. 2024 The European Union is holding a summit Feb. 1 – and Ms. Von der Leyen or any other EU leader in attendance can only disregard the plight of farming at their peril. Raf Casert, The Christian Science Monitor, 1 Feb. 2024 The plight of Afghan and Iraqi interpreters transcends political parties. Howard L. Manuel, Baltimore Sun, 31 Jan. 2024 Meanwhile, the small number of Israelis seeking to raise awareness about the plight of civilians in Gaza have faced heavy criticism and more by Israel’s right-wing government. Kate Linthicum, Los Angeles Times, 24 Jan. 2024 Their plight highlights the risks workers can face when organizing at coffee shops, where, experts say, owners will often stall or drag out negotiations long enough that hourly baristas and other employees just give up and seek another job. Tim Carman, Washington Post, 1 Feb. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'plight.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Verb

Middle English plihten, plyȝten, plighten "to put under risk of forfeiture, promise, pledge" (plighten trouthe "to make a promise, make vows of betrothal"), going back to Old English plihtan "to endanger, compromise," verbal derivative of pliht "danger, risk" — more at plight entry 2

Note: Parallel formations are Old Frisian plichta "to be liable (for)," Middle Dutch plichten, plechten "to pledge, commit," Middle High German phlichten "to take part, oblige, pledge," perhaps pointing to descent from a verb already formed in West Germanic.

Noun (1)

Middle English pliht, plyȝth, plyȝt, plite "danger, harm, strife, sin, guilt, pledge made under risk of forfeiture, covenant," going back to Old English pliht "danger, risk, damage," going back to West Germanic *plehti- (whence also Old Frisian plicht "responsibility, liability," Middle Dutch plicht, plechte "responsibility, community, care," Old High German pfliht "care, fostering, precept"), derivative with the abstract noun suffix *-ti- from the base of *plehan-/*plegan- (whence Old English plēon "to expose to danger, risk the loss of" [class V strong verb], Old Frisian plega, pliga "to be in the habit of doing, do," Old Saxon plegan "to accept responsibility [for]," Middle Dutch pleghen "to look after, care, be used to, use, apply," Old High German pflegan "to look [after], bear responsibility, vouch [for]"), of uncertain origin

Note: As has long been acknowledged, the ulterior origin of *plehan-/*plegan- is problematic. The original meaning of the verb is not entirely clear, and the initial p- presupposes *b-, which existed marginally, if at all, in the Indo-European parent language of Germanic. E. Seebold (Vergleichendes und etymologisches Wörterbuch der germanischen starken Verben, The Hague, 1970) takes as the primary meaning "to stake (as an amount in a game)," from which both "expose to danger" (as in Old English) and "to act as guarantor for, look after, direct, be accustomed to" (as elsewhere in Germanic) proceed. Seebold further attaches to this verb Old English plegan, plegian "to move quickly, occupy oneself, dance, play" (see play entry 1). R. Lühr, et al. (Etymologisches Wörterbuch des Althochdeutschen, Band 6), however, take the original meaning of the Germanic verb to have been "to make, do," from which all the other senses proceed (they point to the many nuances of Latin facere "to do, make"). As an etymological explanation, they compare Middle High German spulgen "to maintain, be accustomed, use" (< Germanic *spulǥ-ii̯e/a-) and suggest that *plehan-/*plegan- was formed from the same base by loss of a presumed mobile s after the Germanic sound shift (hence preserving p). They see the verb as ultimately formed by root extension from Indo-European *(s)pelH- "split off, separate" and connect it with the etymon of plow entry 1.

Noun (2)

Middle English plit, plite, pliȝt, plyght, pleyt "condition, set of circumstances, good condition, health, bad condition, distress," borrowed from Anglo-French plit, plite, plait, ploy "fold, bend, measure of cloth, twist, plait, state, situation, poor situation, predicament," (in literal sense "fold, etc.," also plet, pleit, playe), in part noun derivative of plier, pleier, ploier "to fold, bend," in part going back to Vulgar Latin *plictum "something folded" — more at pleat entry 1, ply entry 3

Note: The forms with -i- and final t (or -te), which predominate in both Anglo-French and Middle English, appear to merge the i of pli (compare Old French plei, ploi, Middle and Modern French pli, and see ply entry 2) with the final consonant of plait, pleit, ploit. The Anglo-Norman Dictionary uses pli as the headword, but the citations given show no examples. Middle English forms such as pliȝt, plyght show assimilation to plight entry 2, of which the Middle English senses "danger, harm, etc.," are not far distant; the Middle English Dictionary enters both words under a single entry plight.

First Known Use

Verb

13th century, in the meaning defined above

Noun (1)

13th century, in the meaning defined above

Noun (2)

13th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of plight was in the 13th century

Dictionary Entries Near plight

Cite this Entry

“Plight.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/plight. Accessed 24 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

plight

1 of 2 verb
: to put or give in pledge
plighter noun

plight

2 of 2 noun
: a usually bad condition or state : predicament
in a sorry plight
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