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

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 On or off camera, Zelensky conducts himself with a deliberate lack of pretense. Anne Applebaum, The Atlantic, 15 Apr. 2022 Again, there’s no pretense of knowledge here to make a statement either way. John Tamny, Forbes, 13 Apr. 2022 Any pretense of a corporate response is just for show, and everyone seems to understand that except for Shiv. Alan Sepinwall, Rolling Stone, 1 Nov. 2021 Uphold fulfilling and genuine relationships, and reject those cultivated through false pretense and that beget toxicity. Sara Ratner, Forbes, 25 Jan. 2022 From the time before the Olympic movement was stripped of pretense. Ann Killion, San Francisco Chronicle, 3 Feb. 2022 Everett’s performance is tamped down here relative to what those familiar with her act may expect, but her rejection of pretense remains. Daniel D'addario, Variety, 7 Jan. 2022 Why not just get rid of all the pretense and go full bore into fortune telling with astrology? Lawrence Carrel, Forbes, 29 Dec. 2021 But now, as the Russian military unleashes the full force of its arsenal throughout the country, any pretense of normalcy has been ripped away. Mark Neville, The New Yorker, 28 Feb. 2022 See More

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.

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

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Dictionary Entries Near pretense

pretend to (something)



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Last Updated

29 Apr 2022

Cite this Entry

“Pretense.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for pretense


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.

More from Merriam-Webster on pretense

Nglish: Translation of pretense for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of pretense for Arabic Speakers


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