verb (used with object)

verb (used without object)


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 confusedportend pretend (see synonym study at the current entry)

Synonyms for pretend

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 Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for pretend

Contemporary Examples of pretend

Historical Examples of pretend

  • 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 tr, usually takes a clause as object or an infinitive) to claim or allege (something untrue)
(tr; may take a clause as object or an infinitive) to make believe, as in a playyou pretend to be Ophelia
(intr foll by to) to present a claim, esp a dubious oneto pretend to the throne
(intr foll by to) obsolete to aspire as a candidate or suitor (for)


fanciful; make-believe; simulateda pretend gun

Word Origin for pretend

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

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