pre·ten·sion | \pri-ˈten(t)-shən \

Definition of pretension 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 : an allegation of doubtful value : pretext

2 : a claim or an effort to establish a claim

3 : a claim or right to attention or honor because of merit

4 : an aspiration or intention that may or may not reach fulfillment has serious literary pretensions


pre·ten·sion | \ˌprē-ˈten(t)-shən \
pretensioned; pretensioning; pretensions

Definition of pretension (Entry 2 of 2)

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Other Words from pretension


pretensionless \pri-ˈten(t)-shən-ləs \ adjective

Choose the Right Synonym for pretension


ambition, aspiration, pretension mean strong desire for advancement. ambition applies to the desire for personal advancement or preferment and may suggest equally a praiseworthy or an inordinate desire. driven by ambition aspiration implies a striving after something higher than oneself. an aspiration to become president someday pretension suggests ardent desire for recognition of accomplishment often without actual possession of the necessary ability and therefore may imply presumption. has literary pretensions

Examples of pretension in a Sentence


He spoke about his achievements without pretension. I admire his honesty and lack of pretension. The restaurant offers excellent food without pretension.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Unlike California’s glittering, glamorous coastal cities, Sacramento’s location in the Central Valley gives it an earnest, small-town affect and a welcome lack of pretension. Freda Moon, New York Times, "36 Hours in Sacramento," 31 May 2018 Despite the hoax, this isn’t an Emperor’s New Clothes-like prank where Moulton satirizes the art world for its pretensions. Andrea Alonso, Los Angeles Magazine, "Fact and Fiction Collide Inside an Exhibit Inspired by a “Forgotten” L.A. Legend—and Beverly Hills Cop," 12 June 2018 No pretension, no monograms on everything, very natural, like her. Lisa Cregan, House Beautiful, "Christina Murphy Pisa on Decorating a Stylish First Apartment," 21 Apr. 2015 The pieces are meta and self-aware but not weighed down by excess pretension or sporty detailing. Liz Raiss, GQ, "Alexander Wang and Adidas Are Back from the Future," 14 May 2018 Maestri’s Scarpia, though, was pure mastery, with the character’s courtly pretensions expressed with an effective vocal veneer but with no stinting on the character’s dark heart. David Patrick Stearns,, "Love 'Tosca'? Philadelphia Orchestra's staging doesn't disappoint," 13 May 2018 With her typical acerbic wit, Ms Cusk skewers the pretensions of the literary world while simultaneously upholding the intrinsic value of literature—no small feat. The Economist, "Rachel Cusk experiments with new ways to tell stories," 10 May 2018 The pretension that Turkey is still a EU candidate country helps Erdogan to consolidate the democratic facade of an increasingly authoritarian regime. Monitor Editors, The Christian Science Monitor, "A US-China trade war is a lose-lose proposition, The West must bring Russia to the negotiating table, The UAE and Saudi Arabia’s enthusiasm for Pompeo will be brief, The EU should stop appeasing Erdogan, Time to take back control of our personal data," 7 Apr. 2018 Even in the early days of the Quattrocento, contemporary chroniclers were already waxing bitter about these money-lending arrivistes with their boorish habits and their pretensions to dictatorship. Steve Donoghue, The Christian Science Monitor, "'The Family Medici' vividly and clearly tells the story of one clan's merciless self-aggrandizement," 28 Mar. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'pretension.' 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 pretension


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1936, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for pretension


pre- + tension entry 2

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

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More Definitions for pretension



English Language Learners Definition of pretension

: the unpleasant quality of people who think of themselves as more impressive, successful, or important than they really are

: a desire to do something or a claim to be something that is impressive or important

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Comments on pretension

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


a state of commotion or excitement

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