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

Definition of pretend

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to give a false appearance of being, possessing, or performing does not pretend to be a psychiatrist
2a : to make believe : feign he pretended deafness
b : to claim, represent, or assert falsely pretending an emotion he could not really feel
3 archaic : venture, undertake

intransitive verb

1 : to feign an action, part, or role especially in play
2 : to put in a claim cannot pretend to any particular expertise— Clive Barnes



Definition of pretend (Entry 2 of 2)

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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms & Antonyms for pretend

Synonyms: Verb

Synonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Adjective

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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: Verb But at least the media establishment can no longer pretend that its abandonment of journalistic standards was necessitated by the unique character of Donald Trump. James Freeman, WSJ, "Ron DeSantis and ‘Resistance Journalism’," 7 Apr. 2021 Or pretend that your iPhone weighs a hundred pounds. Adam Davidson, The New Yorker, "How to Have a Conversation Again," 6 Apr. 2021 The way a normal operating system, like say, Microsoft Windows, treats two displays is to pretend the gap between them doesn't exist. Ron Amadeo, Ars Technica, "Surface Duo review—Orphaned Windows hardware makes a poor Android device," 16 Oct. 2020 Financial regulation cannot pretend to look past five years or so. Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, "The Fed’s Shabby Green Logic," 27 Mar. 2021 Evanston doesn’t pretend to make amends for everything inflicted on African Americans, or for everything that occurred within its borders. Steve Chapman,, "Column: A good start: Evanston takes on racial reparations," 12 Mar. 2021 Lynne Roberts isn’t going to pretend that the things going on around her and her Utah women’s basketball program right now are normal. Josh Newman, The Salt Lake Tribune, "Lynne Roberts rolling with any, all COVID-19 matters as Utah women open hoops practice," 15 Oct. 2020 Mordo will pretend to be Wanda’s friend in order to have her as an ally. Chris Smith, BGR, "This might be how ‘WandaVision’ connects to ‘Doctor Strange 2’," 10 Mar. 2021 The same set of scammers may even pretend to be from different agencies and make a string of calls to the same victim. Susan Tompor, Detroit Free Press, "Social Security scammers now text pictures of phony badges," 4 Mar. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective King Arthur goes questing on a pretend horse, followed by his lackey clacking coconut shells. Los Angeles Times, "Movies on TV this week: ‘An American in Paris’; ‘Ben-Hur’," 26 Mar. 2021 The show is about a team of little kids who interview ghosts for a pretend documentary series that not incidentally spins a true history of Los Angeles. Adam Rogers, Wired, "Netflix’s City of Ghosts Maps a Better Way to See LA—and Everywhere Else," 18 Mar. 2021 King Arthur goes questing on a pretend horse, followed by his lackey clacking coconut shells. Ed Stockly, Los Angeles Times, "Movies on TV this week: ‘My Fair Lady’; ‘Marry Poppins’," 19 Mar. 2021 Milo passes through the tollbooth in his small pretend car and finds himself in the Lands Beyond. Emily Langer, Washington Post, "Norton Juster, who conjured worlds of wordplay in ‘Phantom Tollbooth,’ dies at 91," 9 Mar. 2021 The High North was a pretend war zone last week as Russian and NATO forces staged dueling exercises. David Axe, Forbes, "Two Halves Of A Possible Naval Battle Played Out Along The Norwegian Coast As NATO And Russia Practiced For War," 1 Mar. 2021 At the very end, Thompson started rambling in pretend French, which Rudolph then translated as thanking the Hollywood Foreign Press, declaring COVID a hoax, and saying that space lasers control the weather. Kathryn Vanarendonk And Jackson Mchenry, Vulture, "The Highs, Lows, and Whoas of the 2021 Golden Globes," 28 Feb. 2021 Although the Nighthawks officially retired in 2008, a small number of the stealth fighters still fly, likely as pretend adversaries for U.S. forces. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "The F-117A Nighthawk Is Allegedly Retired. So Why Is It Secretly Flying Over L.A.?," 23 Feb. 2021 Having effectively dodged a proposal from the loathsome Nigel Berbrooke, Daphne dances with Simon (Regé-Jean Page) and realizes their pretend romance may be the real thing. Meredith Blake Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times, "What are Ariana Grande and Taylor Swift songs doing in ‘Bridgerton’?," 26 Dec. 2020

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

See More

First Known Use of pretend


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


1708, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for pretend


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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about pretend

Time Traveler for pretend

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for pretend

Last Updated

12 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Pretend.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Apr. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for pretend



English Language Learners Definition of pretend

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to act as if something is true when it is not true
: to imagine and act out (a particular role, situation, etc.)



English Language Learners Definition of pretend (Entry 2 of 2)

informal : not real


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

Kids Definition of pretend

1 : to make believe Let's pretend we're riding on a bus.
2 : to put forward as true something that is not true She will pretend friendship.

Other Words from pretend

pretender noun

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on pretend

What made you want to look up pretend? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

Name that Thing: Flower Edition

How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!


Anagram puzzles meet word search.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!