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pre·​tend pri-ˈtend How to pronounce pretend (audio)
pretended; pretending; pretends

transitive verb

: to give a false appearance of being, possessing, or performing
does not pretend to be a psychiatrist
: to make believe : feign
he pretended deafness
: to claim, represent, or assert falsely
pretending an emotion he could not really feel
archaic : venture, undertake

intransitive verb

: to feign an action, part, or role especially in play
: to put in a claim
cannot pretend to any particular expertiseClive Barnes


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: imaginary, make-believe
had a pretend pal with whom he talked
: not genuine : mock
pretend pearls
: being a nonfunctional imitation
a pretend train for the children to play in
Choose the Right Synonym for pretend

assume, affect, pretend, simulate, feign, counterfeit, sham mean to put on a false or deceptive appearance.

assume often implies a justifiable motive rather than an intent to deceive.

assumed an air of cheerfulness around the patients

affect implies making a false show of possessing, using, or feeling.

affected an interest in art

pretend implies an overt and sustained false appearance.

pretended that nothing had happened

simulate suggests a close imitation of the appearance of something.

cosmetics that simulate a suntan

feign implies more artful invention than pretend, less specific mimicry than simulate.

feigned sickness

counterfeit implies achieving the highest degree of verisimilitude of any of these words.

an actor counterfeiting drunkenness

sham implies an obvious falseness that fools only the gullible.

shammed a most unconvincing limp

Examples of pretend in a Sentence

Verb He had a big stain on his shirt, but I pretended not to notice. The children pretended to be asleep. She looked like she was enjoying the party but she was just pretending. It was a mistake, and to pretend otherwise would be foolish. The children were pretending to be animals. He pretended to make a phone call. Let's just pretend for a moment. I'm your boss. What would you say to me? Adjective The children played on a pretend train. if you were to see the movie's pretend jewels in real life, you wouldn't be fooled for a minute See More
Recent Examples on the Web
Still, tired job applicants are understandably feeling a bit bristled by having to take the time to pretend to want to work somewhere. Chloe Berger, Fortune, 17 Feb. 2024 No one should pretend the Russians are going to run out of tanks, fighting vehicles and troops tomorrow or even this year. David Axe, Forbes, 16 Feb. 2024 The women had found that when emailing with people in the tech or startup worlds, pretending to be a man could elicit more respect and cooperation. Jessica Testa, New York Times, 15 Feb. 2024 Morris, who pretended to be a Texas music producer, pleaded guilty Tuesday to wire-fraud conspiracy and identity theft charges in Miami federal court. Jay Weaver, Miami Herald, 14 Feb. 2024 To pretend otherwise in the year 2024 is all-but to out oneself as a hireling. Charles C. W. Cooke, National Review, 12 Feb. 2024 The pair borrowed a hearse from one of Knight’s friends and pretended to be undertakers to transport Riva’s body to the funeral home with a tiny lil’ pitstop in Jimmy’s autopsy suite to confirm the coroner’s findings., 12 Feb. 2024 Parents and staff members at the school told KTLA-TV that Denson pretended to shoot students during the drill using her fingers to represent a gun and announced that seven children had been killed. Summer Lin, Los Angeles Times, 9 Feb. 2024 Ross and Rachel—David Schwimmer and Jennifer Aniston—just met up for a Super Bowl ad in which Aniston pretends to have completely forgotten Schwimmer. Elizabeth Logan, Glamour, 7 Feb. 2024
The building blocks are entertaining and educational, creating opportunities to expand STEAM skills and engage in pretend play. Katrina Cossey, Parents, 14 Feb. 2024 The girl dad is immersed in pretend play, a customer in his daughters' beauty shop. Angela Andaloro, Peoplemag, 24 Jan. 2024 How could these missionaries not know: there is no foreign song in a pretend foreign song. Jordan Castro, Harper's Magazine, 5 Jan. 2024 In images shared by their photographer, per the New York Post, Dana and Joe posed outside their old high school with Joe's groomsmen in a pretend football lineup. Emily Weaver, Peoplemag, 12 Jan. 2024 Inside the playhouse is a pretend kitchen that comes complete with a cordless phone, two pans, and a spatula. Ashley Ziegler, Parents, 16 Oct. 2023 It’s got a little sink and a pretend stove with pots and pans. Amy Dickinson, Washington Post, 4 Dec. 2023 On the day of the pretend trip, White’s classroom transformed into an airplane, ready to welcome its young passengers. Jenna Wang, Peoplemag, 22 Nov. 2023 The pretend band is what blew up and got him notoriety. Andy Greene, Rolling Stone, 19 Nov. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'pretend.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



Middle English, from Anglo-French pretendre, from Latin praetendere to allege as an excuse, literally, to stretch out, from prae- pre- + tendere to stretch — more at thin

First Known Use


15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1


1708, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of pretend was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near pretend

Cite this Entry

“Pretend.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 verb
pre·​tend pri-ˈtend How to pronounce pretend (audio)
: to give the appearance of being, having, or doing
I don't pretend to be a doctor, but you should do something about that cough
: to make believe : act a part or role
pretend to be a bear
pretend I'm your boss. What would you say?


2 of 2 adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on pretend

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