something that is put forward to conceal a true purpose or object; an ostensible reason; excuse: The leaders used the insults as a pretext to declare war.
the misleading appearance or behavior assumed with this intention: His many lavish compliments were a pretext for subtle mockery.

Origin of pretext

1505–15; < Latin praetextum pretext, ornament, noun use of neuter past participle of praetexere to pretend, literally, to weave in front, hence, adorn. See pre-, texture
Can be confusedpretense pretext

Synonyms for pretext Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for pretext

Contemporary Examples of pretext

Historical Examples of pretext

  • Now, by some pretext, by some wile, he must live to see her once more.

  • The pretext is none of mine; it's hers, and she shall have enough of it.'

    Little Dorrit

    Charles Dickens

  • His son, who was then at Court with him, was, upon the pretext of a liaison with Mdlle.


    Francois Duc De La Rochefoucauld

  • She had not got at all wet when standing under the window, and had said so only as a pretext to get him to let her in.

    Father Sergius

    Leo Tolstoy

  • I lived for men on the pretext of living for God, while she lived for God imagining that she lives for men.

    Father Sergius

    Leo Tolstoy

British Dictionary definitions for pretext



a fictitious reason given in order to conceal the real one
a specious excuse; pretence

Word Origin for pretext

C16: from Latin praetextum disguise, from praetexere to weave in front, disguise; see texture
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 pretext

1510s, from French prétexte, from Latin praetextum "a pretext, outward display," noun use of neuter past participle of praetexere "to disguise, cover," literally "weave in front" (for sense, cf. pull the wool over (someone's) eyes); from prae- "in front" (see pre-) + texere "to weave," from PIE root *tek- "make" (see texture (n.)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper