Definition of pretext in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈprēˌtekst/


A reason given in justification of a course of action that is not the real reason: the rebels had the perfect pretext for making their move
More example sentences
  • Various pretexts, excuses, and complications have been invoked over the years, but essentially this is a matter of politically motivated exclusion.
  • We find pretexts and excuses to nip through the main room to check on David, bringing him half an orange, a chunk of chocolate, so he knows we're still thinking of him.
  • The buzz is that the political agenda of the Minister's visit was merely a pretext.
excuse, false excuse, ostensible reason, alleged reason;
guise, ploy, pretense, ruse


on (or under) the pretext

Giving the specified reason as one’s justification: the police raided Grand River on the pretext of looking for moonshiners
More example sentences
  • I excused myself on the pretext of getting my card, which I said was in my bag in the bedroom (in truth it was in my pocket).
  • I could bow out of teaching for them on the pretext of needing to care for my friend without admitting the truth.
  • When I finished, a few people took the microphone on the pretext of asking a question.


Early 16th century: from Latin praetextus 'outward display', from the verb praetexere 'to disguise', from prae 'before' + texere 'weave'.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: pre·text

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