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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). Doublet of placit.



plea (plural pleas)

  1. An appeal, petition, urgent prayer or entreaty.
    a plea for mercy
  2. An excuse; an apology.
    • 1667, John Milton, Paradise Lost IV.393
      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.
    • (Can we date this quote?) Laws of Massachusetts.
      The Supreme Judicial Court shall 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.

Related terms[edit]



The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. 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]