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  1. a condition, state, or situation, especially an unfavorable or unfortunate one: to find oneself in a sorry plight.
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Origin of plight1

1350–1400; Middle English plit fold, condition, bad condition < Anglo-French (cognate with Middle French pleit plait) fold, manner of folding, condition; spelling apparently influenced by plight2 in obsolete sense “danger”


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verb (used with object)
  1. to pledge (one's troth) in engagement to marry.
  2. to bind (someone) by a pledge, especially of marriage.
  3. to give in pledge, as one's word, or to pledge, as one's honor.
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  1. Archaic. pledge.
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Origin of plight2

before 1000; (noun) Middle English; Old English pliht danger, risk; cognate with Dutch plicht, German Pflicht duty, obligation; (v.) Middle English plighten, Old English plihtan (derivative of the noun) to endanger, risk, pledge; cognate with Old High German phlichten to engage oneself, Middle Dutch plihten to guarantee
Related formsplight·er, nounun·plight·ed, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for plight

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • He had one hand still upon her arm, and he was laughing openly at her plight.

    Good Indian

    B. M. Bower

  • You see me in the plight in which I came out of the packet within this half-hour.

    Little Dorrit

    Charles Dickens

  • At these words I became eloquent, as young madmen in my plight do.

  • It was horrible to plead to him but the panic of her plight drove her on.

    The Innocent Adventuress

    Mary Hastings Bradley

  • In this plight I came upon him, and challenged him to stand and face me.

    The Suitors of Yvonne

    Raphael Sabatini

British Dictionary definitions for plight


  1. a condition of extreme hardship, danger, etc
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Word Origin

C14 plit, from Old French pleit fold, plait; probably influenced by Old English pliht peril, plight ²


verb (tr)
  1. to give or pledge (one's word)he plighted his word to attempt it
  2. to promise formally or pledge (allegiance, support, etc)to plight aid
  3. plight one's troth
    1. to make a promise of marriage
    2. to give one's solemn promise
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  1. archaic, or dialect a solemn promise, esp of engagement; pledge
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Derived Formsplighter, noun

Word Origin

Old English pliht peril; related to Old High German, German Pflicht duty
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 plight


"to pledge" (obsolete except in archaic plight one's troth), from Old English pligtan, plihtan "to endanger, imperil, compromise," verb form of pliht (n.) "danger, risk" (see plight (n.2)). Related: Plighted; plighting.

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"condition or state (usually bad)," late 12c., "danger, harm, strife," from Anglo-French plit, pleit, Old French pleit, ploit "condition" (13c.), originally "way of folding," from Vulgar Latin *plictum, from Latin plicitum, neuter past participle of Latin plicare "to fold, lay" (see ply (v.1)).

Originally in neutral sense (as in modern French en bon plit "in good condition"), sense of "harmful state" (and current spelling) probably is from convergence and confusion with plight (n.2) via notion of "entangling risk, pledge or promise with great risk to the pledger."

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"pledge," mid-13c., "pledge, promise," usually involving risk or loss in default, from Old English pliht "danger, risk, peril, damage," from Proto-Germanic *pleg- (cf. Old Frisian plicht "danger, concern, care," Middle Dutch, Dutch plicht "obligation, duty," Old High German pfliht, German Pflicht "obligation, duty" (see plight (v.)). Cf. Old English plihtere "look-out man at the prow of a ship," plihtlic "perilous, dangerous."

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper