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This page has 8 definitions of plea in English. Plea is a noun and verb. Examples of how to use plea in a sentence are shown. Also define these 23 related words and terms: appeal, petition, urgent, prayer, entreaty, excuse, apology, plead, defense, justification, law, allege, party, support, cause, allegation, fact, distinguish, demurrer, plaintiff, demand, lawsuit, and argue.

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.



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.
    • Plead definition
      To present (an argument or a plea), especially in a legal case. (1 of 4 plead definitions)
  4. (law) That which is alleged by a party in support of his cause.
    • Party definition
      A person or group of people constituting a particular side in a contract or legal action. (1 of 14 party definitions)
  5. (law) An allegation of fact in a cause, as distinguished from a demurrer.
    • Fact definition
      Something actual as opposed to invented. (1 of 9 fact definitions)
    • Demurrer definition
      A motion by a party to an action, for the immediate or summary judgment of the court on the question, whether, assuming the truth of the matter alleged by the opposite party, it is sufficient in law to sustain the action or defense, and hence whether the party resting is bound to answer or proceed further.
  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.
    • Lawsuit definition
      In civil law, a case where two or more people disagree and one or more of the parties take the case to a court for resolution.

Usage notes

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



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 Dictionary: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