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 is meant to ensure signers are not signing a petition under false pretenses. Megan Henry,, "Andrew Yang announces write-in campaign for Ohio primary," 6 Jan. 2020 Is the Green New Deal a plot to use the climate emergency as a pretense for socialism? David Grinspoon, Washington Post, "An audacious plan to stop climate change: Remake the entire economy," 18 Oct. 2019 But this spring, Redis Labs made yet another licensing change—in essence dropping all pretense of being open source software and adopting a homegrown proprietary license for some of its modules. Scott Gilbertson, Ars Technica, "In 2019, multiple open source companies changed course—is it the right move?," 16 Oct. 2019 An employee allegedly cited false accusations of Wallace attempting to extort from other prisoners as a pretense for the transfer, according to court documents. Phil Davis,, "Jury awards former Baltimore inmate $25 million after brutal beating in jail that has since been shut down," 25 Sep. 2019 Bill Barr has dropped any pretense of leading a department that is intended to provide justice for the American people and now simply looks like Trump’s toady apprentice. Letters To The Editor, The Mercury News, "Letter: Awarding the Kavanaugh team now raises questions," 19 Sep. 2019 Let’s drop all pretense here and start with what everyone is talking about: the ending of Aces-Sky. Kellen Becoats,, "Dearica Hamby’s Winner Caps Off Thriller, Sparks Temper Storm as Semifinals Approach," 16 Sep. 2019 And even the most liberal, educated, and distinguished people drop any pretense of peaceful coexistence. . . . Christopher Ketcham, Harper's magazine, "A Play with No End," 22 July 2019 When Federer immediately broke back, even guests in the Royal Box dropped any pretense of impartiality, cheering the fight still left in the Swiss. Liz Clarke, The Denver Post, "Novak Djokovic beats Roger Federer in marathon fifth set to win second straight Wimbledon title," 14 July 2019

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

11 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Pretense.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 19 January 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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