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

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Synonyms & Antonyms for pretend

Synonyms: Verb

Synonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Adjective

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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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Most of these victorious Republican candidates did not even pretend to support economic populism. George Hawley, National Review, "The Working-Class-Party Myth, and What Really Motivates Voters," 13 Dec. 2020 The powers running it, so used to ignoring reality, want to pretend otherwise. Kurt Streeter, New York Times, "Virus Cases in College Sports Prove Athletes Are Workers," 12 Dec. 2020 When a hotel critic shows up unexpectedly, Lucy and the rest of her family have to pretend to be guests at the bed and breakfast to make sure their parents don't get a bad review for having an empty inn. Christy Piña, Woman's Day, "Bethany Joy Lenz Takes Hallmark Fans Behind the Scenes of Your Favorite Movies," 4 Dec. 2020 If a conversation about the election gets heated, pretend you’re a reporter conducting an interview. Jamie Brown Hantman, Good Housekeeping, "I Work for the Republican Party While My Husband Works for the Democrats — and We're Happily Married," 24 Aug. 2020 Matt's channel is raw, there's no cast or pretend scenario, and the drama unfolds naturally while the GoPros keep recording. Connor Hoffman, Car and Driver, "10 Automotive YouTube Channels to Watch While You're at Home," 24 Dec. 2020 Nearly two years had gone by since that snowy December night and the start of my faux search and pretend perfect relationship. Carole Radziwill, Town & Country, "Carole Radziwill's Christmas Quest: Searching for Liam Neeson," 22 Dec. 2020 Using his street smarts, Mundo would pretend to hire a hit man. Peter Van Sant, CBS News, "Former boxer marked for murder goes undercover to catch the person who wanted him dead," 5 Sep. 2020 There are many stories about mermaids on TV, the internet and in magazines that pretend to be real science news. Peter Goggin, The Conversation, "Mermaids aren’t real – but they’ve fascinated people around the world for ages," 14 Dec. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective 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 Gabriel Preisser is an appealing cad, and earns laughs with goofy dancing and a goofier accent, while Susan Hellman Spatafora sparkles as his clever wife and sings a rousing ode to her pretend homeland of Hungary (Don’t ask). Matthew J. Palm,, "‘Die Fledermaus’: A merry (and welcome) night at the opera | Review," 18 Dec. 2020 At the center of the story is Arjie, a boy from a well-off Tamil family who would rather dress up as a bride for pretend weddings with the girls than play cricket with the boys. Los Angeles Times, "Review: ‘Funny Boy’ is an ambitious story about growing up gay and Tamil in Sri Lanka," 10 Dec. 2020 Previous crafts included a pretend play pie, a pine cone turkey and a winter snow globe. Carol Kovach, cleveland, "Seven Hills finds new ways to have fun, make holiday memories: Sun Postings," 9 Dec. 2020 Last month, students worked on a Sunoco gasoline ad campaign with a pretend budget of $3 million. Dee Depass, Star Tribune, "Minneapolis ad agency pairs with historically Black college in diversity effort," 24 Nov. 2020 The conclusion: The pretend virus didn’t make it far before the aircraft ventilation system filtered it out. Nerd Wallet, oregonlive, "What we know and don’t know about flying during the pandemic," 6 Nov. 2020 On this pretend trip-to-nowhere, maybe the 49ers could pick up a few healthy bodies to complete the fantasy. Ann Killion,, "Being at home offers 49ers no relief in a rapidly disintegrating season," 11 Oct. 2020 One element of the pretend virus is a cell line known as HEK293T that is an adaption made at Stanford University in the 1980s or an original cell line made from human fetal tissue in the Netherlands in the 1970s. Amy Goldstein, Anchorage Daily News, "Antibody treatment Trump promotes relied on testing with cells derived from fetal tissue," 9 Oct. 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.

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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

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Time Traveler for pretend

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for pretend

Last Updated

19 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Pretend.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for pretend


How to pronounce pretend (audio)

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

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