pre·​ten·​sion | \ pri-ˈten(t)-shən How to pronounce pretension (audio) \

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 How to pronounce pretension (audio) \
pretensioned; pretensioning; pretensions

Definition of pretension (Entry 2 of 2)

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Other Words from pretension


pretensionless \ pri-​ˈten(t)-​shən-​ləs How to pronounce pretension (audio) \ adjective

Synonyms for pretension

Synonyms: Noun

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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

Noun 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 Dropping the journalist’s pretension of total detachment, Schmidle examines his feelings toward Stucky: sometimes friendly, sometimes filial. Washington Post, 11 June 2021 Like the music itself, the tone is thought-provoking and occasionally eerie, an immersive experience that never tips over into pretension. Claire Shaffer, Rolling Stone, 29 Apr. 2021 Yes, great beach towns run up and down the California coastline, but Solana Beach stands out for its utter lack of pretension. Anne Olivia Bauso, Travel + Leisure, 25 Apr. 2021 At 86, Wylie paints freewheeling pictures, often with words loosely scrawled across them, that are gloriously big and crude, and full of a certain dry British humor that sends up any whiff of orthodoxy or pretension. New York Times, 22 Apr. 2021 As an art-world satire, the film doesn’t work quite as well, even though the character of Jeffrey makes for an effective mouthpiece for the high-minded pretension of that realm. Bilge Ebiri, Vulture, 9 Apr. 2021 And were the same people making similar accusations of pretension and self-importance when The Lighthouse used a similar aspect ratio? Mark Hughes, Forbes, 20 Mar. 2021 Despite the androidian appearances of its creators, Discovery offered a comfortingly human take on dance music, introducing a gentler touch, some playfulness, and an almost complete lack of pretension. Patrick Lyons, Billboard, 12 Mar. 2021 Every so often the seas rise up and blow away all the pomp and pretension. Charles Graeber, Travel + Leisure, 6 Mar. 2021

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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Learn More About pretension

Time Traveler for pretension

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

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Statistics for pretension

Last Updated

17 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Pretension.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Jun. 2021.

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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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