[pri-tens, pree-tens]

noun Chiefly British.


[pri-tens, pree-tens]


pretending or feigning; make-believe: My sleepiness was all pretense.
a false show of something: a pretense of friendship.
a piece of make-believe.
the act of pretending or alleging falsely.
a false allegation or justification: He excused himself from the lunch on a pretense of urgent business.
insincere or false profession: His pious words were mere pretense.
the putting forth of an unwarranted claim.
the claim itself.
any allegation or claim: to obtain money under false pretenses.
pretension (usually followed by to): destitute of any pretense to wit.
Also especially British, pre·tence.

Origin of pretense

1375–1425; late Middle English < Anglo-French < Medieval Latin *praetēnsa, noun use of feminine of praetēnsus, past participle (replacing Latin praetentus) of praetendere to pretend
Related formspre·tense·ful, adjectivepre·tense·less, adjective
Can be confusedpretense pretext

Synonyms for pretense

1. shamming. 2. semblance. 3. mask, veil. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for pretence

Contemporary Examples of pretence

Historical Examples of pretence

  • When he "played" with Baby Akemit thereafter, the pretence was not all with the child.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • Only three of them she knew made any pretence of earning their living.

  • Only, the cruelty must be whitewashed by a moral excuse, and a pretence of reluctance.

  • I shall probably put off his arrival under some pretence or other.

    Lady Susan

    Jane Austen

  • She loved him so much that she could not keep up this pretence of strength!

    The Foolish Lovers

    St. John G. Ervine

British Dictionary definitions for pretence


US pretense


the act of pretending
a false display; affectation
a claim, esp a false one, to a right, title, or distinction
make-believe or feigning
a false claim or allegation; pretext
a less common word for pretension (def. 3)
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

Word Origin and History for pretence



also pretence, early 15c., "the putting forth of a claim," from Anglo-French pretensse, Middle French pretensse (Modern French prétense), from Medieval Latin noun use of fem. of Late Latin praetensus, altered from Latin praetentus, past participle of praetendere (see pretend). Meaning "false or hypocritical profession" is from 1540s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper