Definition of context in US English:



  • 1The circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed.

    ‘the decision was taken within the context of planned cuts in spending’
    • ‘Are we defined by the work we do, or do we define ourselves within the context of what we do?’
    • ‘I think if you can understand your contexts then you have power to use this to help yourself.’
    • ‘This is down to his determination to place current events in a historical context.’
    • ‘It was the context within which this was happening that drew me in this time because it seemed to be talking to me.’
    • ‘Western managers often have difficulties making new decisions within new environmental contexts.’
    • ‘So in the context of this background, it was perfectly reasonable for Sean to say what he did.’
    • ‘He analyses events in their context, a very worthy practice for any historian to follow.’
    • ‘Here, military history becomes an aspect of war is best studied in terms of the political contexts that give it meaning.’
    • ‘He is also smart enough to understand the context of his personal achievements.’
    • ‘It takes long to explain our context so you can understand the impact of such thing in our culture.’
    • ‘What it does do is examine the situation it has created within the context it has laid out.’
    • ‘It is in our interests to know and understand the contexts in which such values have been shaped.’
    • ‘Yet the contexts within which engagement and idea sharing are invited obviously do not have wide appeal.’
    • ‘It is far from clear to me that information and computation are meaningful terms outside of such contexts.’
    • ‘I had never really attached the plays fully to the social context they came from.’
    • ‘Social visiting within such contexts is very common and occurs on both an everyday basis and for special events.’
    • ‘For new readers this can be an advantage, but they become disadvantages in contexts of closer study.’
    • ‘This will change many times before November, but it is all taking place within a context.’
    • ‘We are going to be able, within a European context, to be in a more positive position.’
    • ‘To explain the ideas of Nazism without this is to examine ideas outside their social context.’
    circumstances, conditions, surroundings, factors, state of affairs
    frame of reference, contextual relationship
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 The parts of something written or spoken that immediately precede and follow a word or passage and clarify its meaning.
      ‘word processing is affected by the context in which words appear’
      • ‘They are each asked to spell one word to which they may ask the country of origin and what context the word may be used.’
      • ‘Wordsworth likes to take words from a context that is dreadful and render them benign.’
      • ‘Numerous grammatical items can only be understood if the context is taken into account.’
      • ‘We must understand the meanings of the words in their contexts.’
      • ‘At the end the utterance may be reduced to single words alluding to contexts they once occurred in.’
      • ‘The only relevant inquiry is as to the sense of the words in the context in which they are used.’
      • ‘Are there some contexts in which that word has a narrower meaning than a reference to a liability to make good any loss?’
      • ‘It was written in a commercial context and it falls to be objectively construed.’
      • ‘The problem is to decide what this means in the context in which the words are used.’
      • ‘Action is revealed in talk and as such talk must be analysed in terms of its context.’
      • ‘I like visiting the websites and see the words in their original context and formatting.’
      • ‘I will exhibit the evidence for personal contexts and then say a word about impersonal ones.’
      • ‘What saddens me so much is that very little is being written in the context of the debate.’
      • ‘It's clear to me that he has either not read the piece properly, or not understood its context.’
      • ‘Surely we can imagine other meanings and contexts for these words.’
      • ‘The conceptualizations associated with a word will tend to vary somewhat according to the contexts in which the word is used.’
      • ‘In these contexts it's not so much a word struggling to express the inexpressible as a word used to sound good and to avoid real thinking.’
      • ‘Each word in the context signifies the opposite of what it was once meant to.’
      • ‘Put another way, he chooses his words carefully, and he chooses the contexts in which they will have most impact.’
      • ‘It also results in the legitimate public use of words that in other contexts are regarded as slang.’
      structure, framework
      View synonyms


  • in context

    • Considered together with the surrounding words or circumstances.

      ‘it is difficult now to view these masterpieces in context’
      • ‘The cross of St. George, like any symbol, must be understood in context if it is to be understood at all.’
      • ‘Chagrin seems to me to have nothing to do with raging ambition, though the connection may be clear if you read the sentence in context.’
      • ‘First, I find it much more comfortable to read weblog entries in context.’
      • ‘Wouldn't it be good if readers could see for themselves how the quote looks in context?’
      • ‘In other words, our ecological sins need to be put in context with all our other sins.’
      • ‘I might be able to offer a better opinion if I can view it in context?’
      • ‘The writer's duty at such a moment is to speak accurately, to put a life in context.’
      • ‘I'm tempted to scan it and post it, but you really have to read all three pages to see it in context.’
      • ‘It means that legal texts need to be considered in context, in order to be understood correctly.’
      • ‘We have to put this in context and not think that we are looking at the absolute moral decay of mankind.’
      • ‘Children become aware of death at an early age, and try from as young as four to understand and place it in context.’
      • ‘Seen in context, there was nothing blasphemous about the second act and the overall theme of the piece was a highly moral one.’
      • ‘It's useful also to put this in context, given the rhetoric that surrounds it.’
      • ‘While there has been an increase in waiting list numbers, these figures should be viewed in context.’
      • ‘Here is Frank's speech, to bring back the memories and put the current scandal in context.’
      • ‘Unusual terms and Anglo-Saxon words are explained in context on the first occurrence.’
      • ‘Many of Parker's friends were surprised at her political conversion, but in context, she was not unique.’
      • ‘To put that in context - that's about three times the size of the equivalent tax cut a year ago.’
      • ‘But you've got to keep the result in context and not get too carried away.’
      • ‘I do agree with many of the writers on this thread that it is interesting to see the work in context.’
  • out of context

    • Without the surrounding words or circumstances and so not fully understandable.

      ‘comments that aides have long insisted were taken out of context’
      • ‘The injunction to turn the other cheek is often quoted, out of context, to justify craven submission.’
      • ‘By taking these words out of context, you have intentionally distorted my meaning to suit your own weak argument.’
      • ‘Once in a while you stumble over a wonderful museum that seems entirely out of context in its surroundings.’
      • ‘The embarrassment was such that Gilchrist found himself explaining that his words had been taken out of context.’
      • ‘He repeats the usual claim that evolutionists have been quoted out of context to provide arguments against evolution.’
      • ‘He quotes out of context, and in several cases his points are simply wrong.’
      • ‘Those of you who have not gone off to quote me out of context should remember that I do not agree with this.’
      • ‘In answer to your inquiry, my quote was taken out of context and sensationalized.’
      • ‘That way you can say the reporter quoted you out of context, or better still, had an agenda.’
      • ‘People are being milked for every last dime and scriptures are quoted out of context.’
      • ‘Taken out of context, the bits and pieces that I have quoted seem slight and inconsequential.’
      • ‘He can't deny it, but he does say he was often quoted out of context to play up the producer's interest in human folly.’
      • ‘She says her words were taken out of context, but soon submits her resignation.’
      • ‘Two of those quoted complained that their comments had been taken out of context.’
      • ‘Bear in mind that I wasn't paying huge amounts of attention to this show, and I've just taken his quote out of context.’
      • ‘He twists words, quotes people out of context and stretches the truth to suit his purpose.’
      • ‘If it turns out the quote is inaccurate or taken out of context, please let me know.’
      • ‘However, he later admitted it, insisting his description of Jones was being quoted out of context.’
      • ‘He said that his words were taken out of context and he was sorry if he had offended anyone.’
      • ‘Parents subsequently discovered that other professionals cited in the article had been quoted out of context.’


Late Middle English (denoting the construction of a text): from Latin contextus, from con- ‘together’ + texere ‘to weave’.