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See also: prétend



From Anglo-Norman pretendre, Middle French pretendre (French prétendre (to claim, demand)), from Latin praetendere, present active infinitive of praetendō (put forward, hold out, pretend), from prae- (pre-) + tendō (stretch); see tend.


  • IPA(key): /pɹɪˈtɛnd/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɛnd
  • Hyphenation: pre‧tend


pretend (third-person singular simple present pretends, present participle pretending, simple past and past participle pretended)

  1. To claim, to allege, especially when falsely or as a form of deliberate deception. [from 14th c.]
    • 1749, Henry Fielding, chapter 23, in The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, volume (please specify |volume=I to VI), London: A[ndrew] Millar [], OCLC 928184292, book XVIII:
      "After what past at Upton, so soon to engage in a new amour with another woman, while I fancied, and you pretended, your heart was bleeding for me!"
    • 1963, Margery Allingham, chapter 5, in The China Governess, OL 2004261W:
      It's rather like a beautiful Inverness cloak one has inherited. Much too good to hide away, so one wears it instead of an overcoat and pretends it's an amusing new fashion.
    • 2009 April 13, “Vanity publishing”, in The Economist:
      I have nothing but contempt for people who hire ghost-writers. But at least most faux authors have the decency to pretend that they are sweating blood over "their" book.
  2. To feign, affect (a state, quality, etc.). [from 15th c.]
    • 1667, John Milton, “Book V”, in Paradise Lost. [], London: [] [Samuel Simmons], [], OCLC 228722708; republished as Paradise Lost in Ten Books: [], London: Basil Montagu Pickering [], 1873, OCLC 230729554:
      This let him know, / Lest, wilfully transgressing, he pretend / Surprisal.
    • 2007 October 29, The Guardian, London:
      Gap and other clothes manufacturers should stop using small subcontractors because they are difficult to control. Instead, they should open up their own fully-owned production facilities so that they cannot pretend ignorance when abuses are committed.
  3. To lay claim to (an ability, status, advantage, etc.). [from 15th c.] (originally used without to)
    • 1682, John Dryden, The Medal
      Chiefs shall be grudged the part which they pretend.
    • 1946, Bertrand Russell, History of Western Philosophy, I.25:
      People observed the diversity of schools and the acerbity of their disputes, and decided that all alike were pretending to knowledge which was in fact unattainable.
  4. To make oneself appear to do or be doing something; to engage in make-believe.
    • 1814 July, [Jane Austen], chapter VI, in Mansfield Park: [], volume I, London: [] T[homas] Egerton, [], OCLC 39810224, pages 111–112:
      "The truth is, Ma'am," said Mrs. Grant, pretending to whisper across the table to Mrs. Norris, "that Dr. Grant hardly knows what the natural taste of our apricot is; []."
    • 2003 January 23, Duncan Campbell, The Guardian, London:
      Luster claimed that the women had consented to sex and were only pretending to be asleep.
  5. (transitive, obsolete) To hold before, or put forward, as a cloak or disguise for something else; to exhibit as a veil for something hidden.
  6. (transitive, obsolete) To intend; to design, to plot; to attempt.
  7. (transitive, obsolete) To hold before one; to extend.

Usage notes[edit]

This is a catenative verb that takes the to infinitive. See Appendix:English catenative verbs

Related terms[edit]


Further reading[edit]


pretend (not comparable)

  1. Not really what it is represented as being; imaginary, feigned.
    As children we used to go on "spying" missions around the neighbour's house, but it was all pretend.



pretend (uncountable)

  1. (childish, informal) the act of engaging in pretend play.

Usage notes[edit]

When used as a noun, pretend is almost exclusively preceded by some form of play, as in "playing pretend". Formally, the activity is more likely to be called pretend play, or roleplay when the participants are not children.