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

For a comic novelist, such human pretension is a gift. Jay Fielden, New York Times, "What Do Mark Twain, Carpentry and Commodes Have in Common?," 13 June 2018 Ginza Iwa Ginza Iwa is high-end sushi without the pretension. Melinda Joe, Condé Nast Traveler, "22 Best Places for Sushi in Tokyo," 27 Feb. 2018 Still, there are dozens of newer krewes that have embraced diversity, and Gasparilla, despite its aristocratic origins and social pretensions, isn't exactly a redoubt of Tampa society—or a model of decorum. Vicky Ward, Town & Country, "The Bizarre Scandal That Brought Down General David Petraeus," 29 Nov. 2016 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

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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Statistics for pretension

Last Updated

30 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for pretension

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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