Apology, apologia, excuse, plea, pretext and alibi denote the reason or reasons offered in explanation or defense of something (as an act, a policy, or a view).
In general use apology implies that one has been, at least apparently, in the wrong; it suggests either a defense that brings forward palliating circumstances or a frank acknowledgment of error with an expression of regret, by way of reparation.
In its older sense, still found in very discriminating use, it implies no admission of guilt or error but a desire to make clear the grounds for some course, belief, or position that appears wrong to others.
- apologies for various . . . doctrines of the faith
Apologia is often used in place of apology in this latter sense.
- Basil de Selincourt’s apologia for Ruskin in the Contemporary Review
- Viscount Grey of Fallodon . . . the other day delivered an apologia for democracy
—N. Y. Times
Excuse implies an intent to remove or avoid blame (as for a neglect of duty, a failure to accomplish an end, or a violation of a rule, law, or custom)
- “Achilles will not to the field tomorrow”—”What’s his excuse?”
- we have forty million reasons for failure, but not a single excuse!
- his pride . . . does not offend me so much as pride often does, because there is an excuse for it
Plea stresses argument or appeal to others for understanding or sympathy.
- old Hepzibah’s scowl could no longer vindicate itself entirely on the plea of nearsightedness
he mumbled something about not having a license [for hunting], and was putting that in for a plea against the expedition
Pretext invariably suggests subterfuge and the offering of one reason or motive in place of the true one.
- he made my health a pretext for taking all the heavy chores, long after I was as well as he was
Alibi in law designates a plea of having been in another place at the time a crime was committed. In its broader use it implies a desire to shift blame or to evade punishment. It commonly connotes plausibility rather than truth in the excuse offered.
- federal taxes are already being used as an alibi for cuts in local school budgets