I'm looking for a word or phrase to fill in the blank.

I feel like the president of the university had a ________ for demoting Mr. X.

The meaning I want to convey is "thin rationale". This might be the phrase I'm looking for, but it doesn't show up in a lot of search results.

What I mean is: A justification that might not hold up under scrutiny. A questionable justification for doing or saying something.

I hope I was clear, and I appreciate your feedback!

  • 1
    Maybe thin excuse
    – Jim
    Commented May 27, 2016 at 6:17
  • 1
    Lame, poor excuse
    – NVZ
    Commented May 27, 2016 at 6:19
  • 1
    A 'poor case' perhaps?
    – Spagirl
    Commented May 27, 2016 at 10:13
  • Leaky or loose case as the opposite of an airtight case.
    – user662852
    Commented May 27, 2016 at 14:03

4 Answers 4


I would go with "flimsy excuse".

flimsy - Dictionary.com

adjective, flimsier, flimsiest. 1. without material strength or solidity: a flimsy fabric; a flimsy structure.

2.weak; inadequate; not effective or convincing: a flimsy excuse.


You are probably looking for pretext:

  • something that is put forward to conceal a true purpose or object; an ostensible reason; excuse: The leaders used the insults as a pretext to declare war.


  • This is not exactly what I was looking for, but still extremely useful. Thanks for your response. +1
    – ktm5124
    Commented May 27, 2016 at 5:48

contestable reasons/rationale might fit well here

  • to call into question (dictionary.com)

"Questionable motive" is a good fit.


1.Doubtful as regards truth or validity
"it is questionable whether any of these exceptions is genuine"

1.1. Likely to be dishonourable or morally suspect
"his questionable financial deals"


1.A reason for doing something
"police were unable to establish a motive for his murder"

Possible combinations:
dubious/problematic/debatable/disputable/lame/thin and reason/excuse/grounds/cause/basis/purpose/intention

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