Definition of pretend in English:

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Pronunciation: /prəˈtend/


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
More example sentences
  • 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
More example sentences
  • 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.
feign, sham, fake, simulate, put on, counterfeit, affect
fake, faked, affected, assumed, professed, spurious, mock, imitation, simulated, make-believe, pseudo, sham, false, bogus
informal pretend, phony
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
Not really what it is represented as being; used in a game or deception: the children are pouring out pretend tea for the dolls
More example sentences
  • In the home center, children prepare a pretend picnic for an imaginary vacation.
  • And when you say towing mannequins, is that mannequin in the sense of, say a store dummy, basically a pretend human being?
  • It was a boring time, as Dominic had to eat pretend chocolate chip cookies, and drink tea.
imaginary, imagined, pretended, make-believe, made-up, fantasy, fantasized, dreamed-up, unreal, invented, fictitious, mythical, feigned, fake, mock, sham, simulated, artificial, ersatz, false, pseudo
informal phony


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

  • The basic idea behind pretend is that you claim to be something that you are not. It comes from Latin praetendere ‘to claim, put forward’, from prae ‘before’ and tendere ‘stretch, hold out’.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: pre·tend

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