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

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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 This, along with Romney’s last-minute declaration exposing their hollow pretense, is what passed for suspense in the trial. Susan B. Glasser, The New Yorker, "The Wrenching Truth About Mitt Romney’s Vote Is That It Doesn’t Matter," 6 Feb. 2020 Le was also charged last year with criminal identity theft, false personation, and false pretenses in a separate criminal case. Chase Difeliciantonio,, "Unlicensed pharmacist claim costs Walgreens $7.5 million," 3 Feb. 2020 In some of the emails, Boeing employees talk openly about the pretense in their efforts. Chris Woodyard, USA TODAY, "'Jedi mind tricks': Boeing 737 Max emails show attempts to manipulate airlines, FAA," 11 Jan. 2020 No pretense here, just good hearty food—a perfect cap on a weekend chock full of the same. David Jefferys, Condé Nast Traveler, "How to Spend 72 Hours in San Juan, Puerto Rico," 6 Aug. 2019 But any pretense of sincerity from Warren’s campaign on the unity front has been completely eroded by the events of the last few days. Libby Watson, The New Republic, "Let Them Fight!," 16 Jan. 2020 By the time Gervais abandoned even the pretense of bonhomie to lay into tech corporations for abusive labor practices, the only thing left to do was drink. Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic, "A Chaotic Golden Globes for a Chaotic Moment," 6 Jan. 2020 On the 1,001st day of his tenure, which was Thursday, all pretense of normalcy went out the window. Peter Baker, New York Times, "On Day 1,001, Trump Made It Clear: Being ‘Presidential’ Is Boring," 18 Oct. 2019 With this deal, the Obamas are abandoning any pretense of a quiet, private life and leaning into a pop-culture legacy that was in the works long before the 2016 election., "A History Of The Obamas In Hollywood," 22 May 2018

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.

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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

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for pretense

Last Updated

8 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Pretense.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for pretense


How to pronounce pretense (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of pretense

: a false reason or explanation that is used to hide the real purpose of something
: an act or appearance that looks real but is false
formal : a claim of having a particular quality, ability, condition, etc.


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.

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