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adjective pre·ten·tious \pri-ˈten(t)-shəs\

Simple Definition of pretentious

  • : having or showing the unpleasant quality of people who want to be regarded as more impressive, successful, or important than they really are

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of pretentious

  1. 1 :  characterized by pretension: as a :  making usually unjustified or excessive claims (as of value or standing) <the pretentious fraud who assumes a love of culture that is alien to him — Richard Watts> b :  expressive of affected, unwarranted, or exaggerated importance, worth, or stature <pretentious language> <pretentious houses>

  2. 2 :  making demands on one's skill, ability, or means :  ambitious <the pretentious daring of the Green Mountain Boys in crossing the lake — American Guide Series: Vermont>

pretentiously adverb
pretentiousness noun

Examples of pretentious in a sentence

  1. It is hard to be pretentious or elevated in Yiddish, and easy to poke fun. —Cynthia Ozick, New Yorker, 28 Mar. 1988

  2. To anyone ignorant of the underlying physics, it might seem the most arrogant and pretentious necromancy. —Carl Sagan, Contact, 1985

  3. She seemed at that first meeting a little pretentious and a would-be intellectual—she was studying sociology in the States, a subject which thrives on banalities and abstract jargon … —Graham Greene, Getting to Know the General, 1984

  4. … and then a P.S. running into 20 pages both sides of the paper and coming back to the top of page one—Hegel, Nietzsche, Emerson, Gide, Beethoven, Suarez—all the boys trotted out in reams of pretentious blather. —Myles na Gopaleen (Flann O' Brien), The Best of Myles, 1968

  5. The houses in the neighborhood are large and pretentious.

  6. <that pretentious couple always serves caviar at their parties, even though they themselves dislike it>

Origin of pretentious

French prétentieux, from prétention pretension, from Medieval Latin pretention-, pretentio, from Latin praetendere

First Known Use: 1832

Synonym Discussion of pretentious

showy, pretentious, ostentatious mean given to excessive outward display. showy implies an imposing or striking appearance but usually suggests cheapness or poor taste <the performers' showy costumes>. pretentious implies an appearance of importance not justified by the thing's value or the person's standing <a pretentious parade of hard words>. ostentatious stresses vainglorious display or parade <the ostentatious summer homes of the rich>.

PRETENTIOUS Defined for Kids


adjective pre·ten·tious \pri-ˈten-shəs\

Definition of pretentious for Students

  1. :  trying to appear better or more important than is really the case <a pretentious snob>

pretentiously adverb
pretentiousness noun

Seen and Heard

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expressing little or no emotion

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