The meaning of ostensible may not be apparent

Ostensible is such a wonderful word. Its Latin origin gives it an air of sophistication and it rolls so easily of the tongue. It is a word that is stacked with subtlety and diplomacy.

Ostensible invitations, such as “we must catch up”, are invitations used socially as a way of showing courtesy or saving face, but are not intended to be honoured. In conversation it is understood not to be sincere but is accepted as part of social convention.

In medieval Latin, ostensibilis meant  ’stretched out to view’. Its origin is in tendere, meaning to stretch. Pretend shares the same ancestry. These are big clues to the meaning of ostensible, which is: stated or appearing to be true, but not necessarily so (ostensibly is a close synonym to avowedly; professedly; apparently).

Ostensible is a subtle way to suggest that something may be stretching the truth so is a word much used by politicians and lawyers.

The Parliament of Australia website has a statement that indicates its use admirably:

The purpose of questions is ostensibly to seek information or press for action. However, because public attention focuses so heavily on Question Time it is often a time for political opportunism.

Ostensible authority (also referred to as apparent authority) is legal relationship between a principal and an agent. An example of an issue involving ostensible authority is where an officer of a company is given a title, status and facilities that may misrepresent the scope of the officer’s actual authority, without safeguards being in place to prevent such a misrepresentation.