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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


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: 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

Example Sentences

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 See More
Recent Examples on the Web
The two show off their best poses – Nicholas jokingly holding up a bundle of flowers to act as a makeshift microphone for Craig pretending to sing. Michelle Lee, Peoplemag, 17 May 2023 Jordan DeMay, a 17-year-old from Marquette, Michigan, took his own life on March 25, 2022, after three Nigerian men pretended to be a female online and coerced DeMay to send a nude photo of himself, according to U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan Mark Totten. Luke Barr, ABC News, 3 May 2023 What’s the difference between caring and only pretending to care? Lorraine Hansberry, Vulture, 27 Apr. 2023 Someone pretending to be the mayor of New York City promised to create a Department of Traffic and Parking Enforcement and slash police funding by 70 percent. Tiffany Hsu, New York Times, 26 Apr. 2023 No one pretends top-seed Milwaukee is dead with star Giannis Antetokounmpo back and the Heat so hurt. Dave Hyde, Sun Sentinel, 25 Apr. 2023 If anyone tries to downplay this, to pretend that anything else is the major storyline in this series, hand them one of those big foam #1 fingers and tell them to sit back down. Bill Goodykoontz, The Arizona Republic, 13 Apr. 2023 Other children thought Romeo was pretending to sleep, police said. Kyle Melnick,, 10 Apr. 2023 And on unemployment benefits, Republicans are now pursuing a bill that pretends to go after fraudsters while actually seeking to repeal federal funds approved by Democrats in 2021 that would empower the Labor Department to investigate fraud cases. Prem Thakker, The New Republic, 10 May 2023
Lawmakers were amused when Altman prompted ChatGPT to write a speech on behalf of Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) about introducing a pretend bill to name a post office after Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), the person said. Will Oremus, Washington Post, 16 May 2023 No politician or business luminary can resist the temptation to do a bit of pretend manual labor to kick off a big project. Brian Amaral,, 15 May 2023 The imaginative set includes an expandable toy spyglass, a toy compass that really spins, shoulder bag and a pretend key ring with baubles and dinglehopper. Anna Tingley, Variety, 12 May 2023 The chunky alphabet pieces come out and have fun pictures underneath, such as Oscar under the letter O. You and your kids can then assemble letters on the pretend school shelves, near Cookie Monster, to practice spelling and sounding out names and words. Jessica Hartshorn,, 9 May 2023 Then the backboard team moved in to fetch the final crew member, with two venturing inside the capsule, two at the hatch and two on the Front Porch never having less than four sets of hands to gently extract the pretend victim and safely secure them into place. Richard Tribou, Orlando Sentinel, 7 Feb. 2023 Sure, gloves with capacitive fingertips exist, and Apple will probably engineer ways for these pretend buttons to play nicely with gloves. Allison Johnson, The Verge, 18 Feb. 2023 The term refers to immigrants who arrived in the United States during the time of the Chinese Exclusion Act as pretend children of people who were already in the country. oregonlive, 8 Jan. 2023 The Washington Star printed a pretend interview with Washington from Mount Vernon. Ronald G. Shafer, Anchorage Daily News, 23 Jan. 2023 See More

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 31 May. 2023.

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

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