Definition of pretence in English:


(US pretense)


  • 1An attempt to make something that is not the case appear true.

    ‘his anger is masked by a pretence that all is well’
    mass noun ‘they have finally abandoned their secrecy and pretence’
    • ‘The suggestion that people are arbitrarily reliving the past and exploiting it under the pretense of creating art strikes her as an affront.’
    • ‘He had circled around to come to the village by the south, on the pretence of making it appear that he was headed for Kaye.’
    • ‘At least in recent years the Federal Government has abandoned the pretence of supporting the UN target while making no genuine attempt to achieve it.’
    • ‘The man promises to tell his son of her visit and, keeping up the pretence, goes to a masked ball under the guise of his ‘son’.’
    • ‘Or else a fall from the pretence, or realization of the true circumstances, may be a greater jarring of the spirits than the status quo.’
    • ‘She claimed that Proctors had cancelled lectures on the pretence of security fears in a deliberate attempt to divide student opinion.’
    • ‘He scares me and I release my gaze and move over to the mirror with the pretence of adjusting my appearance.’
    • ‘The peace-seeking pretense was dripping with charade in the months before the invasion.’
    • ‘This utterly engaging and thoroughly likeable book masquerades under the pretence of being a search for ‘the perfect meal’.’
    • ‘Secondly during the course of the negotiations he put forward the pretence about the attempts to obtain finance.’
    • ‘After all its just a thrown together bunch of experiences with the narrowest of pretenses holding it all together.’
    • ‘Hyper-tokenism embraces the widely accepted notion that we are all pretending, and further insinuates that pretenses can be more or less complete, more or less willed.’
    • ‘In lucid prose, he shreds pretenses and pretexts and demands consistent, bright lines.’
    • ‘This is music to play when you're at the cottage, when all your defenses and pretenses are left back in the city.’
    • ‘In so doing, all nine justices recognized that a dead person retains an interest in a good reputation - shattering the common pretense that this was not true.’
    • ‘All the players involved in this charade understand they are acting on the flimsiest of pretenses; it's just that relying on polls is so much easier than actually reporting or leading.’
    • ‘However, in those circumstances, the whole scheme would be a sham and a pretence.’
    • ‘One of the nice things about this world is that, when the screwers talk to the screwed, they've abandoned the current pretense of pretending it's for the screwed's own good.’
    • ‘Were I lying, then I would simply bestow upon you some vague time in the future, so as to draw things out for pretenses and falsehoods.’
    make-believe, act, putting on an act, acting, dissembling, shamming, sham, faking, feigning, simulation, falsification, dissimulation, invention, imagination, self-deception, play-acting, posturing, posture, posing, pose, cant, attitudinizing
    false show, show, semblance, affectation, false appearance, appearance, outward appearance, impression, image, front, false front, guise, colour, facade, display, posture, pose, masquerade, mask, cloak, veil, veneer, smokescreen, camouflage, cover, travesty, parody, charade
    pretext, false excuse, guise, sham, ruse, wile, trickery
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    1. 1.1 A false display of feelings, attitudes, or intentions.
      ‘he asked me questions without any pretence at politeness’
      • ‘They'll put on the usual pretenses of being happy to be there, and all, but I know it's all a facade.’
      • ‘Marriage has been reduced to the necessary pretenses of true love.’
      false show, show, semblance, affectation, false appearance, appearance, outward appearance, impression, image, front, false front, guise, colour, facade, display, posture, pose, masquerade, mask, cloak, veil, veneer, smokescreen, camouflage, cover, travesty, parody, charade
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    2. 1.2mass noun The practice of inventing imaginary situations in play.
      ‘before the age of two, children start to engage in pretence’
      • ‘‘I once told a massager he had magic hands, that was embarrassing,’ I blurted, without thought to set up the background of my story or pretence.’
      • ‘It appears that the communicative competence is better displayed when children engage in pretense situations.’
      • ‘This gap refers to the lack of opportunities to engage in pretense and exploration with language that occurs through free play in the classroom.’
      • ‘These people are all engaged in a game of pretence.’
      invention, concoction, piece of fiction, fiction, falsification, falsity, lie, untruth, falsehood, fib, deception, made-up story, trumped-up story, fairy story, fairy tale, cock and bull story, barefaced lie
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    3. 1.3mass noun Affected and ostentatious speech and behaviour.
      ‘they have always avoided preciousness and pretence’
      • ‘Besides, he has no tolerance for the pomp, pageantry and pretense of the whole show.’
      • ‘The novel is also natural in the sense of man's everyday life, done without pretence and pose.’
      • ‘But true appreciation of wine derives from the realization that it is meant to be shared with those around us, without pretense or affectation, in proper measure, and as an enhancement to our lives.’
      • ‘And a waiting moment was enough - she and I yet again flinging every possible limit aside, deciding on all manner of pretense and affectation.’
      • ‘There's no self-glorification and no hard-sell behind London's brightest young things, no pomp and no pretence.’
      • ‘Ten years passing only heightens his status as a true street poet, devoid of current bling-bling pretense and full of scathing wit and sharp charm.’
      • ‘The former live their lives within a rigid moralism and behavioral codes and have a supercilious social pretense.’
      • ‘It means that we let go of posturing and pretence and live simply as we are, in truth, at ease with ourselves and with others, not having to worry about who's up or who's down, who's in or who's out.’
      • ‘A country that wants to see real improvements in real services - not posturing and pretence.’
      • ‘The walk would be an in-the-flesh demonstration, without pomp and pretence, as to just how in touch with real life our officials at City Hall are, or are not.’
      pretentiousness, display, ostentation, affectation, showiness, flaunting, posturing, posing, humbug
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  • 2pretence toA claim to have a particular skill or quality.

    ‘he was quick to disclaim any pretence to superiority’
    • ‘It allows the creative subject to be transformed in and by versions of reality as a result of giving up the pretence to creative autonomy.’
    • ‘As in the previous volume, any pretence to scholarship goes out the window when no specific source is given for the great majority of quotations or the books from which analysis is drawn.’
    • ‘In this regard, the menace of bio-terrorism can be seen as usefully clarifying, since it eliminates all pretence to political legitimacy and announces itself starkly as a planetary scourge.’
    • ‘The real scandal is that a newspaper that once had some pretense to quality now prints ignorant drivel like this.’
    • ‘At the same time, she would inscribe a self that is so multiple and mutable as to subvert, by its very nature, any pretence to stability - much less the transcendence of a single identity.’
    • ‘One seductive resolution to this conundrum is to abandon all pretence to scientific neutrality.’
    • ‘Finding the enclosures is made more difficult by the sixty odd additions made since the opening, none of which makes any pretence to architectural merit.’
    • ‘Describing the film as a reflection of life in present India, the film-maker points out that the roles the characters play within the film become their masks and pretence to higher moral ground.’
    • ‘I'm looking to be entertained: boredom, tedium is the worst literary or filmic sin, and cannot be excused by a pretence to some spurious intellectual superiority.’
    • ‘In using the term ‘horrifying’, I am not including am-dram productions of The King and I, which never had any serious pretense to quality.’
    • ‘Thus he dismissed as insubstantial any pretence to an absolute form of knowledge, which seeks to soar above the resistant medium of experience.’
    claim, aspiration, purporting, profession
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Late Middle English: from Anglo-Norman French pretense, based on medieval Latin pretensus ‘pretended’, alteration of Latin praetentus, from the verb praetendere (see pretend).