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[pri-tend] /prɪˈtɛnd/
verb (used with object)
to cause or attempt to cause (what is not so) to seem so:
to pretend illness; to pretend that nothing is wrong.
to appear falsely, as to deceive; feign:
to pretend to go to sleep.
to make believe:
The children pretended to be cowboys.
to presume; venture:
I can't pretend to say what went wrong.
to allege or profess, especially insincerely or falsely:
He pretended to have no knowledge of her whereabouts.
verb (used without object)
to make believe.
to lay claim to (usually followed by to):
She pretended to the throne.
to make pretensions (usually followed by to):
He pretends to great knowledge.
Obsolete. to aspire, as a suitor or candidate (followed by to).
Informal. make-believe; simulated; counterfeit:
pretend diamonds.
Origin of pretend
1325-75; Middle English pretenden < Latin praetendere to stretch forth, put forward, pretend. See pre-, tend1
Can be confused
portend, pretend (see synonym study at the current entry)
1. simulate, fake, sham, counterfeit. Pretend, affect, assume, feign imply an attempt to create a false appearance. To pretend is to create an imaginary characteristic or to play a part: to pretend sorrow. To affect is to make a consciously artificial show of having qualities that one thinks would look well and impress others: to affect shyness. To assume is to take on or put on a specific outward appearance, often (but not always) with intent to deceive: to assume an air of indifference. To feign implies using ingenuity in pretense, and some degree of imitation of appearance or characteristics: to feign surprise. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for pretend
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • She would fall in with his better mood and pretend goodness!

    Weighed and Wanting George MacDonald
  • I must not pretend, then, that I have a system ready to replace all the other systems.

  • When they come in, pretend you just came here in order to meet me.

    Within the Law Marvin Dana
  • Why did you pretend to me that you and your wife were alone in the room—when you had that there with you, eh?

    Within the Law Marvin Dana
  • Stretch yourself full-length in this arm-chair, and pretend to be dead.

British Dictionary definitions for pretend


(when transitive, usually takes a clause as object or an infinitive) to claim or allege (something untrue)
(transitive; may take a clause as object or an infinitive) to make believe, as in a play: you pretend to be Ophelia
(intransitive) foll by to. to present a claim, esp a dubious one: to pretend to the throne
(obsolete) (intransitive) foll by to. to aspire as a candidate or suitor (for)
fanciful; make-believe; simulated: a pretend gun
Word Origin
C14: from Latin praetendere to stretch forth, feign, from prae in front + tendere to stretch
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for pretend

late 14c., "to profess, assert, maintain" (a claim, etc.), "to direct (one's) efforts," from Old French pretendre "to lay claim," from Latin praetendere "stretch in front, put forward, allege," from prae "before" (see pre-) + tendere "to stretch," from PIE root *ten- "to stretch" (see tend).

Main modern sense of "feign, put forward a false claim" is recorded from c.1400; the older sense of simply "to claim" is behind the string of royal pretenders (1690s) in English history. Meaning "to play, make believe" is recorded from 1865. In 17c. pretend also could mean "make a suit of marriage for," from a sense in French. Related: Pretended; pretending.


"fact of pretending," 1888, from children's talk, from pretend (v.). Earlier in same sense was verbal noun pretending (1640s).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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