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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.



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

  1. To claim, allege, especially when falsely or as a form of deliberate deception. [from 14th c.]
    • 1749, Henry Fielding, Tom Jones, XVIII.23:
      "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[1]:
      ‘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, "Vanity publishing", The Economist, 13 Apr 2009:
      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.]
    • Milton
      This let him know, / Lest, willfully transgressing, he pretend / Surprisal.
    • 2007, The Guardian, 29 Oct 2007:
      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)
    • Dryden
      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, Jane Austen, Mansfield Park:
      "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, Duncan Campbell, The Guardian, 23 Jan 2003:
      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.
    • Milton
      Lest that too heavenly form, pretended / To hellish falsehood, snare them.
  6. (transitive, obsolete) To intend; to design; to plot; to attempt.
    • Shakespeare
      Such as shall pretend / Malicious practices against his state.
  7. (transitive, obsolete) To hold before one; to extend.
    • 1596, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, VI.11:
      Pastorella […] Was by the Captaine all this while defended, / Who, minding more her safety then himselfe, / His target alwayes over her pretended […].

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