[ 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.)

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use would-be in a sentence

  • July 17: A little upset by the episode of the wouldbe assassin, I decided to go up to London for the day.

  • A big word that Mr. Wouldbe uses where Mr. Is uses the little word live.

    The Verbalist | Thomas Embly Osmun, (AKA Alfred Ayres)
  • Many criminals are acquitted who wouldbe convicted if the penalty were imprisonment.

    Public Speaking | Clarence Stratton

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