pre·​tense | \ ˈprē-ˌten(t)s How to pronounce pretense (audio) , pri-ˈten(t)s \
variants: or pretence

Definition of pretense

1 : a claim made or implied especially : one not supported by fact
2a : mere ostentation : pretentiousness confuse dignity with pomposity and pretense— Bennett Cerf
b : a pretentious act or assertion
3 : an inadequate or insincere attempt to attain a certain condition or quality
4 : professed rather than real intention or purpose : pretext was there under false pretenses
6 : false show : simulation saw through his pretense of indifference

Examples of pretense in a Sentence

We tried to keep up the pretense that everything was fine. Their indifference is merely pretense.
Recent Examples on the Web By October 1958 Lazarus had dropped any pretense that the 18th Street and K Street stores were separate endeavors. Washington Post, 7 May 2022 Then picture her at 12, meeting her manager-to-be for the first time: the same actor, with little pretense to obscuring the fact that this is a goofy adult play-acting as a preternaturally gifted kid. K. Austin Collins, Rolling Stone, 6 Apr. 2022 In the eyes of many observers, the ruling Communist Party has dropped any pretense about its apparent willingness to take political hostages by releasing two Canadians moments after Meng gained her freedom. Nectar Gan, CNN, 27 Sep. 2021 Ever since Chantel introduced Pedro to her family under the false pretense of him coming to America on a student visa, the drama that followed has kept fans wanting to hear more of their story and follow other family members as well. al, 6 June 2022 The $100,000-plus Grand Wagoneer has the unmistakable Jeep grille and offers multiple all-wheel-drive systems, but makes no pretense to conquering the harrowing off-road trails of the Rubicon, Moab and more. Mark Phelan, Detroit Free Press, 19 Apr. 2022 No pretense, in other words, just a down-to-earth invitation to enjoy some wine. Washington Post, 18 Feb. 2022 Hollywood’s new take on the classic is a bold and current adaptation with no pretense to perfection. New York Times, 15 Dec. 2021 The theocracy has shed any pretense of internal debate—a centuries-old tradition within the religious schools—in favor of a modern Middle Eastern dictatorship inextricably wedded to an increasingly harsh Islamist creed. Reuel Marc Gerecht And Ray Takeyh, WSJ, 12 May 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'pretense.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of pretense

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for pretense

Middle English, probably modification of Medieval Latin pretensio, irregular from Latin praetendere

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Time Traveler for pretense

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The first known use of pretense was in the 15th century

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Dictionary Entries Near pretense

pretend to (something)



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Last Updated

28 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Pretense.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Jul. 2022.

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More Definitions for pretense


variants: or pretence \ ˈprē-​ˌtens , pri-​ˈtens \

Kids Definition of pretense

1 : an act or appearance that looks real but is false He made a pretense of studying.
2 : an effort to reach a certain condition or quality His report makes no pretense at completeness.

More from Merriam-Webster on pretense

Nglish: Translation of pretense for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of pretense for Arabic Speakers


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