A Word A Day : Ostensible

Friday, 28th March 2008 : Today's Word is ...


( Adjective )

Pronunciation : o stén-sse-b'l


1. outward appearance

2. presented as being true, or appearing to be true, but usually hiding a different motive or meaning

3. concerned with or comprehending only what is apparent or obvious

4. appearing as such but not necessarily so


French, from Medieval Latin ostçnsibilis, from Latin ostçnsus, past participle of ostendere, to show : ob-, ob- + tendere, to stretch


ostensive, apparent, professed, supposed, perceived, seeming, alleged, superficial


genuine, real, improbable, obscure, unlikely, vague

Contextual Examples:

• His ostensible purpose was charity, but his real goal was popularity.

• The ostensible purpose of the parade was to celebrate the day, but the prolific political posters made it clear it was part of a campaign.

• The ostensible reason why Ahab did not go on board of the whaler we had spoken was this: the wind and sea betokened storms.

• There is something ostensible in each of them, and in all probability something unseen and unproved, but to be imagined, also.

• I have formed the belief that the man who applauds that air with special violence and ostensible sectional loyalty is invariably a native of India.

• Blake's ostensible mission was to repair a broken telephone, but his real goal was to plant a bomb that would blow up the building.

• Trevor's ostensible kindness to squirrels belied his deep hatred of them.

Related Words:

ostensibly : Adverb

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