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See also: pleâ



From Middle English ple, from Old French plait, plaid, from Medieval Latin placitum (a decree, sentence, suit, plea, etc., Latin an opinion, determination, prescription, order; literally, that which is pleasing, pleasure), neuter of placitus, past participle of placere (to please). Cognate with Spanish pleito (lawsuit, suit). Doublet of placit and placate. See also please, pleasure.


  • IPA(key): /pliː/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -iː


plea (plural pleas)

  1. An appeal, petition, urgent prayer or entreaty.
    a plea for mercy
    make a plea
  2. An excuse; an apology.
    • 1667, John Milton, “Book IV”, in Paradise Lost. [], London: [] [Samuel Simmons], [], →OCLC; republished as Paradise Lost in Ten Books: [], London: Basil Montagu Pickering [], 1873, →OCLC:
      Necessity, the tyrant’s plea.
    • 1668, Sir John Denham, Poems and Translations with The Sophy, “The Sophy”, Actus Primus, Scena Segunda, page 6:
      No Plea must serve; ’tis cruelty to spare.
  3. That which is alleged or pleaded, in defense or in justification.
  4. (law) That which is alleged by a party in support of his cause.
  5. (law) An allegation of fact in a cause, as distinguished from a demurrer.
  6. (law) The defendant’s answer to the plaintiff’s declaration and demand.
  7. (law) A cause in court; a lawsuit; as, the Court of Common Pleas.
    • 1782, "An Act establishing a Supreme Judicial Court within the Commonwealth", quoted in The Constitutional History of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Frank Washburn Grinnell, 1917, page 434
      they or any three of them shall be a Court and have cognizance of pleas real, personal, and mixed.

Usage notes[edit]

In 19th-century U.K. law, that which the plaintiff alleges in his declaration is answered and repelled or justified by the defendant’s plea. In chancery practice, a plea is a special answer showing or relying upon one or more things as a cause why the suit should be either dismissed, delayed, or barred. In criminal practice, the plea is the defendant’s formal answer to the indictment or information presented against him/her.


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The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


plea (third-person singular simple present pleas, present participle pleaing, simple past and past participle pleaed)

  1. (chiefly England regional, Scotland) To plead; to argue. [from 15th c.]
    • 1824, James Hogg, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner:
      With my riches, my unhappiness was increased tenfold; and here, with another great acquisition of property, for which I had pleaed, and which I had gained in a dream, my miseries and difficulties were increasing.

Further reading[edit]