1. An earnest request; an appeal: spoke out in a plea for greater tolerance.
2. An excuse; a pretext: "[The] colonel ... hid first behind a stump and then worked his way to the rear on the plea of a sore back" (William Marvel).
a. The defendant's answer to a formal criminal charge: entered a plea of not guilty.
b. A defendant's answer in a civil action.
c. A special answer in an equity action, setting forth in lieu of a detailed response a basis for dismissing, delaying, or barring the suit.
d. A legal proceeding.
[Middle English plai, lawsuit, from Old French plai, plaid, from Late Latin placitum, decree, from Latin, from neuter past participle of placēre, to please; see plāk-1 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
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