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[plee] /pli/
an appeal or entreaty:
a plea for mercy.
something that is alleged, urged, or pleaded in defense or justification.
an excuse; pretext:
He begged off on the plea that his car wasn't working.
  1. an allegation made by, or on behalf of, a party to a legal suit, in support of his or her claim or defense.
  2. a defendant's answer to a legal declaration or charge.
  3. (in courts of equity) a plea that admits the truth of the declaration, but alleges special or new matter in avoidance.
  4. Obsolete. a suit or action.
cop a plea, Slang. cop1 (def 5b).
Origin of plea
early Medieval Latin
1175-1225; Middle English ple, earlier plaid < Old French < early Medieval Latin placitum law-court, suit, decision, decree, Latin: opinion (literally, that which is pleasing or agreeable), noun use of neuter of past participle of placēre to please
Can be confused
pleas, please.
1. request, petition, supplication, solicitation, suit. 3. justification. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for plea
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Were I to advance the plea of youth in excuse of the naiveness to be found in these pages, he would be likely to say "Bosh!"

    Some Reminiscences Joseph Conrad
  • Life shelves them on the plea that they are old; but that is not the reason.

  • But in spite of all that is being done, we continue to make our plea for the little children.

    The Child in the Midst Mary Schauffler Labaree
  • The plea touched to the bottom of her heart, but she could not, would not yield.

    Within the Law Marvin Dana
  • The plea for co-operation is, to say the least, hypocritical in the face of the determination to refuse justice to the Punjab.

    Freedom's Battle Mahatma Gandhi
British Dictionary definitions for plea


an earnest entreaty or request: a plea for help
  1. (law) something alleged or pleaded by or on behalf of a party to legal proceedings in support of his claim or defence
  2. (criminal law) the answer made by an accused to the charge: a plea of guilty
  3. (in Scotland and formerly in England) a suit or action at law
an excuse, justification, or pretext: he gave the plea of a previous engagement
Word Origin
C13: from Anglo-Norman plai, from Old French plaid lawsuit, from Medieval Latin placitum court order (literally: what is pleasing), from Latin placēre to please
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for plea

early 13c., "lawsuit," from Anglo-French plai (late 12c.), Old French plait "lawsuit, decision, decree" (9c.), from Medieval Latin placitum "lawsuit," in classical Latin, "opinion, decree," literally "that which pleases, thing which is agreed upon," properly neuter past participle of placere (see please). Sense development seems to be from "something pleasant," to "something that pleases both sides," to "something that has been decided." Meaning "a pleading, an agreement in a suit" is attested from late 14c. Plea-bargaining is first attested 1963. Common pleas (early 13c.) originally were legal proceedings over which the Crown did not claim exclusive jurisdiction (as distinct from pleas of the Crown); later "actions brought by one subject against another."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for plea


Related Terms

cop a plea

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with plea


see: cop a plea
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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