[ wood-bee ]
See synonyms for would-be on Thesaurus.com
  1. wishing or pretending to be: a would-be wit.

  2. intended to be: a would-be kindness.

  1. 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.)

Words Nearby would-be

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use would-be in a sentence

  • Everything showed a rapid flight; even the would-be dinner of the guerrillas was found half cooked.

  • While a one-step was in full swing some would-be wag suddenly turned off all the lights.

    Uncanny Tales | Various
  • He is a stranger to affectation—that dangerous rock to the would-be wit; he is natural, and is witty without trying to be a wit.

    Friend Mac Donald | Max O'Rell
  • He flattered himself that by timely suggestion he had stumped at least half a dozen would-be candidates for Mildreds hand.

    The Fifth String   | John Philip Sousa
  • "This is the blankest, rummiest blank go ever I was in," muttered the would-be iconoclast.

    The Chequers | James Runciman

British Dictionary definitions for would-be


  1. usually derogatory wanting or professing to be: a would-be politician

  2. intended to be: would-be generosity

  1. derogatory a person who wants or professes to be something that he is not

  2. 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