1 of 2


pre·​tend pri-ˈtend How to pronounce pretend (audio)
pretended; pretending; pretends

transitive verb

: to give a false appearance of being, possessing, or performing
does not pretend to be a psychiatrist
: to make believe : feign
he pretended deafness
: to claim, represent, or assert falsely
pretending an emotion he could not really feel
archaic : venture, undertake

intransitive verb

: to feign an action, part, or role especially in play
: to put in a claim
cannot pretend to any particular expertiseClive Barnes


2 of 2


: imaginary, make-believe
had a pretend pal with whom he talked
: not genuine : mock
pretend pearls
: being a nonfunctional imitation
a pretend train for the children to play in
Choose the Right Synonym for pretend

assume, affect, pretend, simulate, feign, counterfeit, sham mean to put on a false or deceptive appearance.

assume often implies a justifiable motive rather than an intent to deceive.

assumed an air of cheerfulness around the patients

affect implies making a false show of possessing, using, or feeling.

affected an interest in art

pretend implies an overt and sustained false appearance.

pretended that nothing had happened

simulate suggests a close imitation of the appearance of something.

cosmetics that simulate a suntan

feign implies more artful invention than pretend, less specific mimicry than simulate.

feigned sickness

counterfeit implies achieving the highest degree of verisimilitude of any of these words.

an actor counterfeiting drunkenness

sham implies an obvious falseness that fools only the gullible.

shammed a most unconvincing limp

Examples of pretend in a Sentence

Verb He had a big stain on his shirt, but I pretended not to notice. The children pretended to be asleep. She looked like she was enjoying the party but she was just pretending. It was a mistake, and to pretend otherwise would be foolish. The children were pretending to be animals. He pretended to make a phone call. Let's just pretend for a moment. I'm your boss. What would you say to me? Adjective The children played on a pretend train. if you were to see the movie's pretend jewels in real life, you wouldn't be fooled for a minute
Recent Examples on the Web
Hope realizes one morning that someone hacked into her email and sent around messages pretending to be her, begging for money and posting photos of Hope around the internet. Tommy McArdle, Peoplemag, 26 June 2024 Whoopi Goldberg pretends to spit on The View stage after accidentally saying Donald Trump's name Sign up for Entertainment Weekly's free daily newsletter to get breaking TV news, exclusive first looks, recaps, reviews, interviews with your favorite stars, and more. Joey Nolfi,, 25 June 2024
The graphic used in the promotion of the pretend concert dates to at least 2020, when Alternative Symphony shared it in its promotion for fake concerts in Australia. Mike Stunson, Miami Herald, 25 June 2024 In early films, violence was pretend: dramatic staggers after being shot, shots miraculously fired from a gunslinger’s hand, wounds healed after a quick wrap. Emily Harnett, Harper's Magazine, 24 Apr. 2024 See all Example Sentences for pretend 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'pretend.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



Middle English, from Anglo-French pretendre, from Latin praetendere to allege as an excuse, literally, to stretch out, from prae- pre- + tendere to stretch — more at thin

First Known Use


15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1


1708, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of pretend was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near pretend

Cite this Entry

“Pretend.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 verb
pre·​tend pri-ˈtend How to pronounce pretend (audio)
: to give the appearance of being, having, or doing
I don't pretend to be a doctor, but you should do something about that cough
: to make believe : act a part or role
pretend to be a bear
pretend I'm your boss. What would you say?


2 of 2 adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on pretend

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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