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[pri-ten-shuh s] /prɪˈtɛn ʃəs/
characterized by assumption of dignity or importance, especially when exaggerated or undeserved:
a pretentious, self-important waiter.
making an exaggerated outward show; ostentatious.
full of pretense or pretension; having no factual basis; false.
Origin of pretentious
1835-45; earlier pretensious. See pretense, -ious
Related forms
pretentiously, adverb
pretentiousness, noun
Can be confused
portentous, pretentious.
1. pompous. 2. showy.
Synonym Study
1. See bombastic. 2. See grandiose. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for pretentious
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • A pretentious mirror in a tarnished gilt frame was the piece de resistance.

  • His court, while it is one of the least pretentious in Europe, is yet one of the most refined.

    Foot-prints of Travel Maturin M. Ballou
  • No doubt there is justification enough for his suspicion in the exploits of pretentious and garrulous souls.

    Mankind in the Making H. G. Wells
  • At this date the Methodists had the most pretentious church in the city.

  • Now Sir Timothy was a pretentious man, who assumed to be not only an advocate but a lawyer.

    The Prime Minister Anthony Trollope
British Dictionary definitions for pretentious


making claim to distinction or importance, esp undeservedly
having or creating a deceptive outer appearance of great worth; ostentatious
Derived Forms
pretentiously, adverb
pretentiousness, noun
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 pretentious

1836, from French prétentieux (17c.), from prétention "pretension," from Medieval Latin pretentionem (nominative pretentio) "pretension," noun of action from past participle stem of Latin praetendere (see pretend (v.)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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