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  1. characterized by assumption of dignity or importance, especially when exaggerated or undeserved: a pretentious, self-important waiter.
  2. making an exaggerated outward show; ostentatious.
  3. full of pretense or pretension; having no factual basis; false.

Origin of pretentious

1835–45; earlier pretensious. See pretense, -ious
Related formspre·ten·tious·ly, adverbpre·ten·tious·ness, noun
Can be confusedportentous pretentious

Synonyms for pretentious

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1. pompous. 2. showy.

Synonym study

1. See bombastic. 2. See grandiose. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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Contemporary Examples of pretentious

Historical Examples of pretentious

British Dictionary definitions for pretentious


  1. making claim to distinction or importance, esp undeservedly
  2. having or creating a deceptive outer appearance of great worth; ostentatious
Derived Formspretentiously, adverbpretentiousness, 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

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