from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. An earnest request; an appeal: spoke out in a plea for greater tolerance.
  • n. An excuse; a pretext: "necessity,/The Tyrant's plea” ( John Milton).
  • n. Law An allegation offered in pleading a case.
  • n. Law A defendant's answer to the declaration made by the plaintiff in a civil action.
  • n. Law The answer of the accused to a criminal charge or indictment: entered a plea of not guilty.
  • n. Law A special answer depending on or demonstrating one or more reasons why a suit should be delayed, dismissed, or barred in equity law.
  • n. Law An action or suit.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. An appeal, petition, urgent prayer or entreaty.
  • n. An excuse; an apology.
  • n. That which is alleged or pleaded, in defense or in justification.
  • n. That which is alleged by a party in support of his cause.
  • n. An allegation of fact in a cause, as distinguished from a demurrer.
  • n. The defendant’s answer to the plaintiff’s declaration and demand.
  • n. A cause in court; a lawsuit; as, the Court of Common Pleas. See under Common.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. That which is alleged by a party in support of his cause; in a stricter sense, an allegation of fact in a cause, as distinguished from a demurrer; in a still more limited sense, and in modern practice, the defendant's answer to the plaintiff's declaration and demand. 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.
  • n. A cause in court; a lawsuit. See under Common.
  • n. That which is alleged or pleaded, in defense or in justification; an excuse; an apology.
  • n. An urgent prayer or entreaty.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. In law: A suit or action; the presentation of a cause of action to the court.
  • n. In a general sense, that which is urged by or on behalf of a litigant, in support of his claim or defense; the contention of either party
  • n. Specifically, in modern practice: At common law, a document (or in some inferior courts an oral statement) on the defendant's part, denying the allegations of the plaintiffs declaration, or alleging new matter (that is, matter not, shown by the plaintiff's pleading) as cause why the action should not be maintained. In equity, a document alleging new matter as a cause why the defendant should not be required to answer the complainant's bill
  • n. In Scots law, a short and concise note of the grounds on which the action or defense is to be maintained, without argument
  • n. That which is alleged in support, justification, or defense; an urgent argument; a reason; a pleading; an excuse; an apology: as, a plea for the reduction of taxation; a plea for rationalism.
  • n. Pretext; pretense.
  • n. Proposition; proposal.
  • n. A dispute or controversy; a quarrel.
  • n. Another litigation elsewhere, on the same subject, and between the same parties, or between the creditor and a third party sought to be held for the same debt. When used in this sense it is commonly in reference to the question whether arrest in one action is a satisfaction or bar to the other.
  • n. 2. Excuse, etc. See apology.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. an answer indicating why a suit should be dismissed
  • n. (law) a defendant's answer by a factual matter (as distinguished from a demurrer)
  • n. a humble request for help from someone in authority


Middle English plai, lawsuit, from Old French plai, plaid, from Late Latin placitum, decree, from Latin, from neuter past participle of placēre, to please.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English, from Old French plait, plaid, from Medieval Latin placitum ("a decree, sentece, suit, plea, etc., Latin an opinion, determination, prescription, order; literally, that which is pleasing, pleasure"), neuter of placitus, past participle of placere ("to please"). (Wiktionary)



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