Definition of alibi in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈaləˌbī/

noun (plural alibis)

1A claim or piece of evidence that one was elsewhere when an act, typically a criminal one, is alleged to have taken place: she has an alibi for the whole of yesterday evening a defense of alibi
More example sentences
  • Mr Lydon claims he has an alibi to disprove Mr Dunlop's allegations as he was a guest speaker at a conference hosted by the IACT.
  • One of the players against whom an allegation was made, an England international, is understood to be claiming he has an alibi.
  • What is the evidence that established that, other than the evidence of the alibi, ultimately said to be false?
1.1 informal An excuse or pretext: a catch-all alibi for failure and inadequacy
More example sentences
  • Note that there were the usual raft of excuses and alibis following the failures.
  • Excuses, alibis and wild cover-up stories chased each other around Harry's brain, each more feeble than the last.
  • We love to make excuses and believe alibis, however unlikely.

verb (alibis, alibied, alibiing)

[with object] informal
1Offer an excuse or defense for (someone), especially by providing an account of their whereabouts at the time of an alleged act: her friend agreed to alibi her
More example sentences
  • Ashamed, he tried to cover the incidents up, even ordering his representatives to publicly alibi his wife's violence.
  • These sons have been alibied, to our knowledge.
  • Roz gets her beloved son alibied by some nice simple, incontrovertible (well, provable) facts.
1.1 [no object] Make excuses: not once do I recall him whining or alibiing
More example sentences
  • His question meant to give the minister a chance to alibi why the administration had absolutely no response to the bombing.
  • She squirmed and alibied, then finally stated that she could ‘not commit the channel to that kind of use of their staff time and resources’ and advised him to contact the station general manager.
  • He refused to alibi, saying he had simply not done a good job holding onto the football.


The weakened nonlegal use of alibi to mean simply ‘an excuse’ is a fairly common and natural extension of the core meaning. It is acceptable in standard English, although regarded as incorrect by some traditionalists.


Late 17th century (as an adverb in the sense 'elsewhere'): from Latin, 'in another place; elsewhere'. The noun use dates from the late 18th century.

  • Alibi is recorded from the late 17th century, as an adverb in the sense ‘elsewhere’, and was originally a Latin word with the same meaning and spelling. A typical example of its use comes from John Arbuthnot's History of John Bull (1727): ‘The prisoner had little to say in his defence; he endeavoured to prove himself Alibi.’ The noun use, ‘a piece of evidence that a person was somewhere else when a crime was committed’, dates from the 18th century. The weakened sense of ‘excuse’ is early 20th century.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: al·i·bi

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.