pre·​ten·​tious | \pri-ˈten(t)-shəs \

Definition of pretentious 

1 : characterized by pretension: such as

a : making usually unjustified or excessive claims (as of value or standing) the pretentious fraud who assumes a love of culture that is alien to him— Richard Watts

b : expressive of affected, unwarranted, or exaggerated importance, worth, or stature pretentious language pretentious houses

2 : making demands on one's skill, ability, or means : ambitious the pretentious daring of the Green Mountain Boys in crossing the lakeAmer. Guide Series: Vt.

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from pretentious

pretentiously adverb
pretentiousness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for pretentious

showy, pretentious, ostentatious mean given to excessive outward display. showy implies an imposing or striking appearance but usually suggests cheapness or poor taste. the performers' showy costumes pretentious implies an appearance of importance not justified by the thing's value or the person's standing. a pretentious parade of hard words ostentatious stresses vainglorious display or parade. the ostentatious summer homes of the rich

Examples of pretentious in a Sentence

It is hard to be pretentious or elevated in Yiddish, and easy to poke fun. — Cynthia Ozick, New Yorker, 28 Mar. 1988 To anyone ignorant of the underlying physics, it might seem the most arrogant and pretentious necromancy. — Carl Sagan, Contact, 1985 She seemed at that first meeting a little pretentious and a would-be intellectual—she was studying sociology in the States, a subject which thrives on banalities and abstract jargon … — Graham Greene, Getting to Know the General, 1984 … and then a P.S. running into 20 pages both sides of the paper and coming back to the top of page one—Hegel, Nietzsche, Emerson, Gide, Beethoven, Suarez—all the boys trotted out in reams of pretentious blather. — Myles na Gopaleen (Flann O' Brien), The Best of Myles, 1968 The houses in the neighborhood are large and pretentious. that pretentious couple always serves caviar at their parties, even though they themselves dislike it
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

Does it get much less pretentious than gooey cheese curds? Griffin Jackson,, "Edge of River North rich with art, fresh eats, arcade games," 6 Oct. 2017 This cult of contemporary name art that is just so pretentious. David A. Keeps, House Beautiful, "Designers Hillary Thomas and Jeff Lincoln on Decorating a 1960s Town House," 11 Apr. 2012 Ghost Creepy costumes, carefully constructed mythology and lots of faux-pretentious metal bombast from the Swedish cult favorites, hitting Detroit as part of their Rats! Brian Mccollum, Detroit Free Press, "Upcoming Detroit concerts: Sevendust, Spinners, LeAnn Rimes, Tom Jones, more," 10 May 2018 Chances of winning: As likely as Win Butler making a pretentious acceptance speech. Matt Miller, Esquire, "A Guide to the Horrible Songs That Will Probably Win Grammys," 24 Jan. 2018 Sam comes off as pretentious and manipulative, and we root for Josie just to get away from him. Katie Walsh,, "Review: Creepy romantic drama 'No Postage Necessary' not worth its weight in bitcoin," 5 July 2018 To continue reading this story, TRY IT NOW Except chef and owner Steve McHugh is hardly the pretentious sort. Mike Sutter, San Antonio Express-News, "Review: Cured makes a 3½-star statement at the Pearl," 28 June 2018 That may seem pretentious for a mobile provider, but the advert is part of Iliad’s entry into Italy, which began on May 29th. The Economist, "A maverick French telecoms firm attempts Italian conquest," 21 June 2018 Yet there is nothing pretentious or precious in her writing. Stephanie Hanes, The Christian Science Monitor, "'Life in the Garden' lovingly recalls the place of gardens in an author's life," 14 June 2018

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

1832, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for pretentious

French prétentieux, from prétention pretension, from Medieval Latin pretention-, pretentio, from Latin praetendere

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about pretentious

Share pretentious

Dictionary Entries near pretentious








Statistics for pretentious

Last Updated

2 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for pretentious

The first known use of pretentious was in 1832

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for pretentious



English Language Learners Definition of pretentious

: having or showing the unpleasant quality of people who want to be regarded as more impressive, successful, or important than they really are


pre·​ten·​tious | \pri-ˈten-shəs \

Kids Definition of pretentious

: trying to appear better or more important than is really the case a pretentious snob

Other Words from pretentious

pretentiously adverb
pretentiousness noun

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on pretentious

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


a nest or breeding place

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Late Autumn 2018 Words of the Day Quiz

  • frosted-autumn-leaves
  • Which is a synonym of yahoo?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Word Winder's CrossWinder

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!