[woo d-bee]


wishing or pretending to be: a would-be wit.
intended to be: a would-be kindness.


a person who wishes or pretends to be something: Opera singers and would-bes should practice at least four hours a day.

Origin of would-be

1250–1300; Middle English (adj.)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for would-be

Contemporary Examples of would-be

Historical Examples of would-be

  • Angelo, the would-be Puritan ruler, was a "false seemer," Malvolio was a "chough."

  • Then she called me to her by name in a would-be pompous manner.

  • She was like that chap from Detroit, that would-be perfect all-round man.

    The Harbor

    Ernest Poole

  • Again I saw that he was concerned solely with his humiliation as a would-be host.

    Ruggles of Red Gap

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • "Fighting again," the father said, in a would-be fierce voice.

    The Adventurer

    Cyril M. Kornbluth

British Dictionary definitions for would-be


adjective (prenominal)

usually derogatory wanting or professing to bea would-be politician
intended to bewould-be generosity


derogatory a person who wants or professes to be something that he is not
Indian the person to whom one is is engaged to be married; fiancé or fiancée
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