From Middle English pleden, plaiden, from Old French plaider (to plead, offer a plea), from plait, from Medieval Latin placitum (a decree, sentence, suit, plea, etc.", in Classical Latin, "an opinion, determination, prescription, order; literally, that which is pleasing, pleasure), neuter of placitus, past participle of placeō (to please). Cognate with Spanish pleitear (to litigate, take to court).


  • IPA(key): (infinitive, present tense) /pliːd/
    • Audio (US):(file)
    • Rhymes: -iːd
  • IPA(key): (past tense, participle) /plɛd/



plead (third-person singular simple present pleads, present participle pleading, simple past and past participle pleaded or (chiefly North America, Scotland) pled or plead)

  1. (transitive, intransitive, copulative) To present (an argument or a plea), especially in a legal case.
    The defendant has decided to plead not guilty.
    • 1611, The Holy Bible, [] (King James Version), London: [] Robert Barker, [], →OCLC, Job 16:21:
      O that one might plead for a man with God, as a man pleadeth for his neighbour!
    • 2023 October 18, “Network News: Carmont: NR pays nearly £1m in out-of-court settlements”, in RAIL, number 994, page 15:
      At the High Court in Aberdeen in September, NR pleaded guilty to a series of failings, including failing to tell the driver that it was unsafe to drive the train at the 75mph line speed.
  2. (intransitive) To beg, beseech, or implore, especially emotionally.
    Synonyms: appeal, ask, beg, request
    He pleaded with me not to leave the house.
    He was pleading for mercy.
  3. (transitive) To offer by way of excuse.
    Synonyms: allege, claim, maintain
    Not wishing to attend the banquet, I pleaded illness.
    It is no defence to plead that you were only obeying orders.
  4. (transitive) To discuss by arguments.

Usage notes

  • The irregular past form is always pronounced /plɛd/, but may be spelt pled (analogous to led) or less often plead (analogous to read).
  • A majority of North American speakers naturally use the irregular form. The form pleaded is perceived as “wrong” by some speakers, while others perceive it as formal. Both forms are common in Scotland. In most other areas only pleaded is usual.

Derived terms




Further reading