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.

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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
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Recent Examples on the Web

Even the most seasoned opera-goers have likely never seen this 19th century Italian comedy about a pretentious, overbearing Neapolitan father who places ads in newspapers across Europe in a misguided attempt to marry off his daughter. Catherine Womack,, "Irreverent Pacific Opera Project takes on 'La Gazetta'," 26 June 2018 Strewn with oriental rugs, clubby leather sofas, and lots of contemporary art (El Dorado worked with Simeone Deary on the decor), the Crossroads feels cool and cozy but never pretentious; perfectly suited, in short, to contemporary Kansas City. Marley Marius, Vogue, "A Guide to Kansas City, Missouri: Its History, Its Culture, and Why It’s Worth a Closer Look," 23 Nov. 2018 At after-service drinks, Will asks Tess out for a day of burgers and a pretentious movie — a real date in the daylight!, "Sweetbitter Episode 3: The Big Decision," 21 May 2018 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

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.

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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

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Last Updated

14 Jan 2019

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The first known use of pretentious was in 1832

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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

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