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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. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for pretentiousness
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The novelty of the thing, and the pretentiousness in which he had swaddled it, had deceived them finely.

    Scaramouche Rafael Sabatini
  • I can see none of that pretentiousness that Edith Bryce led us to expect.'

    Lover or Friend

    Rosa Nouchette Carey
  • I am no politician, nor given to tricks nor to pretentiousness.

  • Anecdotes were told of his self-assurance, his vanity, his pretentiousness.

    Mount Royal, Volume 3 of 3 Mary Elizabeth Braddon
  • Nevertheless he regarded it as essentially absurd in its pretentiousness.

    The Price of Love

    Arnold Bennett
  • While tolerant of kinds in literature, he should be intolerant of pretentiousness.

    The Art of Letters

    Robert Lynd
  • He probed character with a glance, and was particularly sharp on pretentiousness and self-importance.

    Collections and Recollections George William Erskine Russell
  • Although comely, she was homely—a "downright" girl, scorning and hating all manner of pretentiousness.

    The Price of Love

    Arnold Bennett
British Dictionary definitions for pretentiousness


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 pretentiousness



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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