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.
an allegation made by, or on behalf of, a party to a legal suit, in support of his or her claim or defense.
a defendant's answer to a legal declaration or charge.
(in courts of equity) a plea that admits the truth of the declaration, but alleges special or new matter in avoidance.
Obsolete. a suit or action.
cop a plea, Slang. cop1 ( def 5b ).

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

pleas, please.

1. request, petition, supplication, solicitation, suit. 3. justification. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
plea (pliː)
1.  an earnest entreaty or request: a plea for help
2.  a.  law something alleged or pleaded by or on behalf of a party to legal proceedings in support of his claim or defence
 b.  criminal law the answer made by an accused to the charge: a plea of guilty
 c.  (in Scotland and formerly in England) a suit or action at law
3.  an excuse, justification, or pretext: he gave the plea of a previous engagement
[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 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

c.1215, "lawsuit," from Anglo-Fr. plai (c.1170), O.Fr. plait "lawsuit, decision, decree" (842), from M.L. placitum "lawsuit," in classical L., "opinion, decree," lit. "that which pleases, thing which is agreed upon," properly neut. pp. 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 c.1381. Plea bargaining is first attested 1963. Common pleas (c.1215) 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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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases


see cop a plea.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Example sentences
Perry's suit is a request-a desperate plea-for a court to invent a rule.
Cooper rejected a plea bargain that called for a sentence of four to seven
Yet for over a decade he has languished in jail awaiting a response to his plea
  for mercy.
He resolutely denied her plea to have the picture removed.
Idioms & Phrases
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