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 But in the book, Tully and Kate fall out over a humiliating incident: Tully brings Kate and Marah onto her show, The Girlfriend Hour, under the pretense of repairing their fraught relationship. Jenny Hollander, Marie Claire, "The Ending of 'Firefly Lane,' Explained," 9 Feb. 2021 If before this season there were any doubts about the noxiousness of the sport’s out-of-whack power structure and laughable pretense of amateurism, they should be gone now. Mike Finger,, "Mike Finger: In troubling time for college sports, Texas’ move fits right in," 2 Jan. 2021 Everything from the music, which is godawful but with this really heavy pretense of being incredible and very serious. Jill Gutowitz, Vulture, "Shitposting With ‘the Guy From Eve 6’," 5 Feb. 2021 But any pretense that McConnell could maintain control over Trump or over the Party’s fate unravelled after the 2020 election. Jane Mayer, The New Yorker, "Why McConnell Dumped Trump," 23 Jan. 2021 Enough with the pretense that Kenley Jansen is still the Dodgers’ closer. Dylan Hernández Columnist, Los Angeles Times, "Column: As heartless as it might be, Dodgers must move on from Kenley Jansen," 17 Dec. 2020 Moreover, since the Arab states invaded to acquire territory and not out of concern for the Palestinians, the purchases would not have removed the motivation to attack, and the expulsions would have still left them with sufficient pretense to do so. Mike Watson, National Review, "Israel and Her Critics," 3 Dec. 2020 Chuck Yeager was an American of an older, rarer kind: ready to take a risk for his country, courageous beyond measure, utterly without pretense. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Chuck Yeager," 8 Dec. 2020 This was started when the mainstream media stopped, dropped any pretense of being unbiased and actually chose sides during this election. Paul Bedard, Washington Examiner, "Liberal Media Scream: Smug Chuck Todd to senator, ‘I’ve had enough of hearing this!’," 4 Jan. 2021

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

28 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Pretense.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for pretense



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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