Definition of pretend in English:


Syllabification: pre·tend
Pronunciation: /priˈtend


  • 1 [with clause or infinitive] Speak and act so as to make it appear that something is the case when in fact it is not: I closed my eyes and pretended I was asleep she turned the pages and pretended to read
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    • They could pretend that they in fact had hands toughened by manual labor in the somewhat mythical Australian outback.
    • The good thing about a BlackBerry is you can read a message and pretend that you haven't seen it.
    • They could in fact merely be pretending not to be Masons.
    make as if, profess, affect; dissimulate, dissemble, put it on, put on a false front, go through the motions, sham, fake it
  • 1.1Engage in a game or fantasy that involves supposing something that is not the case to be so: children pretending to be grown-ups
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    • This fantasy allows us to pretend that where we are does not matter, and that what we do daily is a minor narrative that does not count.
    • Francis loses both daughter and wife and constructs a fantasy life to pretend that Lisa is somehow still alive.
    • Back then I used to play games and pretend I was a secret agent and such.
    put on an act as, make believe one is, play at being, act (the part of), play-act (the part of), impersonate
  • 1.2 [with object] Give the appearance of feeling or possessing (an emotion or quality); simulate: she pretended a greater surprise than she felt
    More example sentences
    • Lodovico, with Brabanzio's brother Graziano, hears the wounded men: Iago, feigning to help, stabs Roderigo, then pretends horror on finding him dead.
    • Each of us (we're men here) pretends appreciation for the way she slips from point to point.
    • Even pretended disinterest can destroy thought, or pretended interest can give room for ideas to coalesce.
  • 2 [no object] (pretend to) Lay claim to (a quality or title): he cannot pretend to sophistication
    More example sentences
    • There is a self-styled anti-globalisation movement that pretends to the contrary.
    • But it is an impostor, a sort of Toad Hall that pretends to an amplitude and height it hasn't got.
    claim, lay claim to, purport to have, profess to have


[attributive] informal Back to top  


late Middle English: from Latin praetendere 'stretch forth, claim', from prae 'before' + tendere 'stretch'. The adjective dates from the early 20th century.

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