[o-sten-suh-buh l]


outwardly appearing as such; professed; pretended: an ostensible cheerfulness concealing sadness.
apparent, evident, or conspicuous: the ostensible truth of their theories.

Origin of ostensible

1720–30; < French < Latin ostēns(us), variant of ostentus (see ostensive) + French -ible -ible
Related formsos·ten·si·bly, adverbnon·os·ten·si·ble, adjectivenon·os·ten·si·bly, adverbun·os·ten·si·ble, adjectiveun·os·ten·si·bly, adverb
Can be confusedostensible ostensive
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for ostensibly

Contemporary Examples of ostensibly

Historical Examples of ostensibly

  • Ostensibly they were a literary society; really they were diamond polishers.

  • He had discarded his hat, and lay back on his elbows, ostensibly to look at the moon.


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

  • Ostensibly the letter invited him to address the Silver Shirts.

    Secret Armies

    John L. Spivak

  • He could not retire from Mexico after this ostensibly friendly visit.

  • He was not certain, but when had George left Atlanta, ostensibly for Memphis?

    The Winning Clue

    James Hay, Jr.

British Dictionary definitions for ostensibly



(sentence modifier) apparently; seemingly



apparent; seeming
Derived Formsostensibility, noun

Word Origin for ostensible

C18: via French from Medieval Latin ostensibilis, from Latin ostendere to show, from ob- before + tendere to extend
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for ostensibly

1765, from ostensible + -ly (2).



1762, "capable of being shown, presentable," from French ostensible, from Latin ostens-, past participle stem of ostendere "to show, expose to view; to stretch out, spread before; exhibit, display," from ob "in front of" (see ob-) + tendere "to stretch" (see tenet). Meaning "apparent, professed" is from 1771.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper