Definition of ostensible in English:


Pronunciation: /əˈstensəb(ə)l//äˈstensəb(ə)l/


  • [attributive] Stated or appearing to be true, but not necessarily so.

    ‘the delay may have a deeper cause than the ostensible reason’
    • ‘For all his ostensible desire to tell the truth, when it comes to the hardest points, McNamara proves slippery.’
    • ‘The ostensible reason is that he does not wish to relinquish his seat in the European parliament.’
    • ‘While the ostensible motivation will be to improve the security of the Internet, the real objective will be to increase corporate profitability.’
    • ‘Its ostensible purpose was to usher in yet another Five Year Plan, this time on law and order.’
    • ‘Later, the company risked its stance of ostensible objectivity by joining the preacher and his family for a picnic supper at a farm north of the city.’
    • ‘The safety team's ostensible goal was, if possible, to manage the project to a safe and successful conclusion.’
    • ‘A biography of Elvire O'Connor, the ostensible writer of this piece, is included in the program and is a tiny work of art in its own right.’
    • ‘The ostensible goal of this little group was to combat the great colossus of Americana - Mickey Mouse.’
    • ‘There is a remarkable piece of dialogue on just this subject in Dr Faustus, although the ostensible topic is music.’
    • ‘Where an employee has no actual authority, either express or implied, to perform the act in question he may still have apparent or ostensible authority.’
    • ‘It is, after all, made up of ostensible competitors who are allied for the common good.’
    • ‘On top of that, the government's plan doesn't even achieve its ostensible goal of solvency!’
    • ‘The show confirmed that he is an unabashed landscape painter, regardless of his ostensible subject matter.’
    • ‘The ostensible reason behind this attempt is to protect pets and wildlife from these so called cruel traps.’
    • ‘The ostensible purpose of these escapades was to tag the animal's ear, for identification and conservation.’
    • ‘Given that the country does not appear to have been invaded by a foreign power, what is the ostensible cause of this nationwide panic?’
    • ‘The ostensible ease with which he makes such jumps unsettles even loyal supporters.’
    • ‘The ostensible cause of the conflict was a trivial argument between a public transportation driver and a passenger of different faiths.’
    • ‘As is so often the case with this Prime Minister, he was talking as much about himself as he was about his ostensible subject.’
    • ‘There is simply no money in the till to fund rickety new programs that will quickly outgrow their ostensible resource base.’
    apparent, seeming, outward, surface, superficial, professed, supposed, avowed, presumed, so-called, alleged, declared, claimed, purported, pretended, feigned, specious
    View synonyms


Mid 18th century: from French, from medieval Latin ostensibilis from Latin ostens- stretched out to view from the verb ostendere, from ob- in view of + tendere to stretch.