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  • Adj.




I told my parents that I was ostensibly going to the library to study, but my real reason was to meet my girlfriend Fran there. I then told Fran an ostensible or alleged truth that I wanted to take her out to eat at Charlie’s, but the real reason was that I wanted to see my buddy Joe on the way. I gave Joe the supposed or ostensible reason that I wanted to see how he was doing, but the actual reason was that I wanted to borrow his cool new car to make Ronnie jealous, whose house we would pass on our way out to eat.

Quiz: What is an example of an ostensible purpose for something?

  • Not telling anyone why you are leaving your job because you want it kept a secret.
  • Stating that you are going to the store to get milk when you really want to buy a candy bar.
  • Writing a note so that your mom knows exactly where you will be after school.

Memory Hook

Tense So Not Able Although I told my boss that I was tense and so needed to rest, that was nothing but an ostensible excuse for not being able to complete the work on time because I wanted to spend my time social networking instead.


  • The game’s system of governance had become a management expert’s nightmare, with the ostensible boss—the commissioner—at the bottom of an inverted pyramid, crushed under the various whims of the 26 team owners. —Sports Illustrated
  • The ostensible rationale is that people do not understand nutrition, that educating them will drive up demand for healthier foods, and that the industry will be happy to meet that demand. The hidden rationale is that such programs will have little impact, allowing [the food] industry to do business as usual. —Los Angeles Times
  • The ostensible question at hand was what the United Nations' highest lawmaking body should do about it, a subject on which the members differed profoundly. But mid-sentence in Butler's presentation, a senior official named Benon Sevan burst in to whisper in Annan's ear. —The Washington Post
  • The ostensible problem this measure would solve is the recent spike in interest rates on "jumbo" home loans—mortgages larger than the current Fannie-Freddie cap of $417,000. —The Washington Post

Word Ingredients

ob- to, toward
tens stretch, stretch out
-ible handy, capable of

An ostensible reason is reasonably or plausibly “capable of being stretched out towards” a listener as a handy excuse for doing something other than what you say you are going to do, although it appears that you are doing it anyway.

Word Theater

Salinger (2013) A journal ostensibly written by the famous author JD Salinger.

Word Constellation