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)

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from pretension


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

Synonyms for pretension

Synonyms: Noun

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Bill, my cousin, was genuine, always himself -- a generous, friendly guy without pretension who loved a laugh and treasured his collection of old records, which filled a room in his Twinsburg home. Jane Kahoun, cleveland, "Remembering a generous guy who represented Santa well," 18 June 2020 The exterior design aims for a more premium look, as opposed to the RAV4's rugged pretensions, and the interior materials look posh compared to those in even the RAV4's highest trim levels. Joey Capparella, Car and Driver, "Toyota Venza Returns for 2021 as Two-Row Hybrid-Only SUV," 18 May 2020 Whatever the topic, though, his clarity of thought and utter lack of pretension are remarkable, his native Bronx still refreshingly resonant in his voice, even after years of expat life in England. Sheri Linden, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Kubrick by Kubrick': Film Review | Tribeca 2020," 1 May 2020 That book was revelatory, stripping the pretensions out of long-form sportswriting and daring to present the Chicago Bulls as just another workplace. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, "Can Michael Jordan Fill the Huge Sports-Size Hole in Our Hearts?," 24 Apr. 2020 And as for that dialogue, how to be witty without being arch, wise without pretension, emotional without sentiment, principled without pedantry? Lexy Perez, The Hollywood Reporter, "Book Excerpt: How Writer Robert Towne Crafted 'Chinatown' for Jack Nicholson," 4 Feb. 2020 In this novel of midlife collapse, Houellebecq reprises his attack on the ideological pretensions of contemporary Western society. John Gregory Dunne, The New Yorker, "Briefly Noted," 2 Dec. 2019 Her shots are pretty in the realest sense of the word, and glamorous without pretension. Megan Spurrell, Condé Nast Traveler, "19 Travel Photographers to Follow on Instagram Right Now," 18 Nov. 2019 In this final sequence, Euphoria finally peels away all its layers of smug, prepare-to-be-shocked pretension and exposes its deeply sincere, teenaged heart. Constance Grady, Vox, "Why Euphoria’s messy season finale could mean great things for the show’s future," 11 Aug. 2019

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about pretension

Time Traveler for pretension

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for pretension

Last Updated

28 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Pretension.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Jul. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for pretension


How to pronounce pretension (audio)

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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

A More Exception(al) Quiz

  • hot dog  hot dog  hot dog  hot dog cat
  • Which of the following words is not a synonym for ‘a young person’?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!