[pri-tens, pree-tens]
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  1. pretending or feigning; make-believe: My sleepiness was all pretense.
  2. a false show of something: a pretense of friendship.
  3. a piece of make-believe.
  4. the act of pretending or alleging falsely.
  5. a false allegation or justification: He excused himself from the lunch on a pretense of urgent business.
  6. insincere or false profession: His pious words were mere pretense.
  7. the putting forth of an unwarranted claim.
  8. the claim itself.
  9. any allegation or claim: to obtain money under false pretenses.
  10. pretension (usually followed by to): destitute of any pretense to wit.
  11. pretentiousness.
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

See more synonyms for on
1. shamming. 2. semblance. 3. mask, veil. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for pretense

Contemporary Examples of pretense

Historical Examples of pretense

  • She had been convicted of blackmail, and she made no pretense even of innocence.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • Ben pretended to be vexed with Dick and Tom, but it was only pretense.

    The Dare Boys of 1776

    Stephen Angus Cox

  • “Tell us some more about Big Brother Bill,” she said, with the pretense of a sigh.

    The Law-Breakers

    Ridgwell Cullum

  • Hastily he threw on the packs, making no pretense at neat packing.

    Louisiana Lou

    William West Winter

  • That cannot be simulated; the pretense of it is in general, in the long run, futile.

Word Origin and History for pretense

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