Definition of pretend in English:



  • 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’
    • ‘She lifted her book and pretended that she was reading.’
    • ‘Everyone looks groomed, and pretends to be happy to be back.’
    • ‘The district council pretends to be interested in cleaning up public spaces, but on this issue it has been totally weak and ineffective.’
    • ‘One of them claims to be an insurance agent, another one pretends to work for a car dealership.’
    • ‘They could in fact merely be pretending not to be Masons.’
    • ‘He closes his eyes, and pretends that he is asleep for the rest of the time.’
    • ‘He never uses allusions, elliptical expressions, never pretends to know what he doesn't.’
    • ‘During a particularly spiritual assembly, Cassandra stands up and pretends to talk in tongues.’
    • ‘She pretends to be innocent around my family but, at the mall, she's all flirty.’
    • ‘Scientists have found yellow rice an unlikely solution to the problem it pretends to address.’
    • ‘It's a familiar enough premise: a man loses his job but doesn't tell his family and pretends to go to work every day as normal.’
    • ‘Unable to tell his wife that he's lost his job as an accountant, he pretends to go to work when really he spends the day drifting through London.’
    • ‘Since every decadent man who pretends to have a plan and philosophy attracts followers, I will have my share too.’
    • ‘The good thing about a BlackBerry is you can read a message and pretend that you haven't seen it.’
    • ‘Only one of them pretends to be historical, the other freely admits she is not.’
    • ‘Couldn't we have picked a group that at least pretends to be neutral?’
    • ‘Anybody that pretends to do that in the United States will be very, very severely punished.’
    • ‘I'm starting to think she's just plain dumb and not the conservative intellectual she pretends to be.’
    • ‘They could pretend that they in fact had hands toughened by manual labor in the somewhat mythical Australian outback.’
    • ‘This literature not only pretends to know the odds, it claims to know the cash value of one's unlucky number coming up.’
    make as if, profess, affect
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    1. 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’
      • ‘Beth rolled her eyes at her, then put up an imaginary microphone, pretending that she was a game show host.’
      • ‘Jerry will pretend he is not a marone, because this game is a fantasy!’
      • ‘When he does, will he play the party game and try to pretend the elephants aren't there?’
      • ‘I believe that I am a complete psycho and I pretend that Chase is this forsaken love that will make me all better.’
      • ‘Francis loses both daughter and wife and constructs a fantasy life to pretend that Lisa is somehow still alive.’
      • ‘Fearing the worst, he decides to pretend that Germany is still the same country his mother believes in.’
      • ‘She had enjoyed slipping away into their make believe world and pretending she was the heroine.’
      • ‘I did a lot of role-playing on the beach, pretending to be all sorts of people.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He threw his arms in the air pretending he was in a real game and he was the star.’
      • ‘For some reason I believed that she was going to ask me to pretend that she lived in high society.’
      • ‘He wants to see Catherine and wants her to pretend that they are engaged and in a fancy Milan hotel room together.’
      • ‘Back then I used to play games and pretend I was a secret agent and such.’
      • ‘You can go to land of make believe and you can pretend, but in the end you still have no friends Ted, I think this is goodbye.’
      • ‘As long as we're playing make believe, why not pretend that plot matters.’
      • ‘SNL Alumni Adam Sandler and Chris Rock do a bit where Rock pretends to be Catherine Zeta-Jones.’
      • ‘Imagine or pretend that you are in a beautiful spot in nature looking out over a vast horizon where a wonderful future awaits you.’
      • ‘Sometimes, when I was playing in a football game, I would stare at Susan and pretend she came to cheer me on.’
      • ‘As to what magic is all about, I was always given to the believe that magic was mostly just about bragging and pretending.’
      • ‘It was a huge adventure and we'd play silly games and pretend we were pirates on a quest for gold.’
      put on an act, make believe, play at, act, play-act, pass oneself off as, bluff, impersonate
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    2. 1.2[with object]Give the appearance of feeling or possessing (an emotion or quality); simulate.
      ‘she pretended a greater surprise than she felt’
      • ‘Tory pretended disgust and turned away to avoid staring at the strawberry blonde actress.’
      • ‘Her father stands, moves over to the curtains, opens them slightly and pretends some interest outside as a distraction to his answer.’
      • ‘Every spring pretends a pity for pretty, short-lived things.’
      • ‘See, I save time in the morning by not bothering to pretend surprise that the Government lies.’
      • ‘I am glad that he knows when to pretend fear; it might save his non-life some day.’
      • ‘Even pretended disinterest can destroy thought, or pretended interest can give room for ideas to coalesce.’
      • ‘She favoured me with another small grin and withdrew her hand, pretending an exaggerated interest in watching as her claws retracted.’
      • ‘This one turns out to be a handsome if grumpy Famous Writer for whom she pretends an interest in cars, sports and wine.’
      • ‘He is a member who is given to anger, a member who can display anger and can pretend anger, but underneath it actually is anger, as well.’
      • ‘Lodovico, with Brabanzio's brother Graziano, hears the wounded men: Iago, feigning to help, stabs Roderigo, then pretends horror on finding him dead.’
      • ‘No one pretends an interest: at 4 a.m. it's too late to care.’
      • ‘It pretends sympathy for them, but offers them nothing but hate for strangers.’
      • ‘Each of us (we're men here) pretends appreciation for the way she slips from point to point.’
      • ‘He pretended outrage, though it was only half-hearted, exhausted as he was.’
      • ‘The disgusting picture of a woman who pretends zeal for the happiness of Africa, and is constantly employed in securing a life of misery to her own children, is a laboured work of art in his present exhibition.’
      • ‘Jason argued another possibility in his head; Paul could be pretending friendship in order to be close to Kirby.’
      • ‘I realize that I've manipulated others, trying to draw sympathy by pretending weakness.’
      • ‘We're pretending this whole love thing to save both of our careers because of a horrible mistake.’
      fake, faked, affected, assumed, professed, purported, spurious, ostensible, quasi-, contrived, in name only
      insincere, hypocritical, mock, imitation, simulated, so-called, make-believe, pseudo, sham, false, bogus
      counterfeit, fraudulent, forged
      pretend, phoney
      feign, sham, fake, simulate, put on, counterfeit, affect
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  • 2[no object] Lay claim to (a quality or title)

    ‘he cannot pretend to sophistication’
    • ‘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.’
    lay claim to, say that one owns, assert ownership of, formally request
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  • [attributive] Not really what it is represented as being; used in a game or deception.

    ‘the children are pouring out pretend tea for the dolls’
    • ‘Not that I'll be wiping pretend crude oil off pretend sea gulls, you understand.’
    • ‘You just become someone walking around in freedom, no longer a pretend celebrity with a wallet to be taxed.’
    • ‘Boys and young men with pretend guns were being given military drill and taught blood-curdling, screamed chants.’
    • ‘If using pretend news is one of the ways these stations have chosen to save money, it's a false economy.’
    • ‘And when you say towing mannequins, is that mannequin in the sense of, say a store dummy, basically a pretend human being?’
    • ‘I can't be the only adult to play for pretend money around the Monopoly board, but at least that requires some sense of the world outside me.’
    • ‘The dolls are to be served a pretend lunch, so they each have their own striped chair and matching tiny teacup and plate.’
    • ‘He fondly recalls his first foray into musicals being a show about a snowman in which he had to throw pieces of paper as pretend snow.’
    • ‘At least on the streets there was no pretend law being bothered with in a pretend way, just people puffing, victimising only themselves.’
    • ‘There would be no safe haven for them, if the West was prepared to be an equal partner (not just a pretend one).’
    • ‘Before we knew it, it was time to say goodnight - the pretend goodnight before the encore - so we knew there was more.’
    • ‘Then, to secure the best security scoop yet, the journo brought in pretend bomb-making equipment in his rucksack.’
    • ‘It was a boring time, as Dominic had to eat pretend chocolate chip cookies, and drink tea.’
    • ‘I don't know why the pretend face ruined it for me, but it did.’
    • ‘We weren't marching off to conquer other countries, but to save them, for real, not for pretend purposes.’
    • ‘In the home center, children prepare a pretend picnic for an imaginary vacation.’
    • ‘They ride around on pretend horses while knocking coconuts together and often break into spontaneous song.’
    • ‘‘There is no point in having a pretend vote on a pretend treaty,’ he said.’
    • ‘Build a fire (real or pretend depending on fire restrictions) and tell stories.’
    • ‘Pretend troops are just what we need to fight for a pretend cause!’
    imaginary, imagined, pretended, make-believe, made-up, fantasy, fantasized, fancied, dream, dreamed-up, unreal, fanciful, invented, fictitious, fictive, mythical, feigned, fake, mock, imitative, sham, simulated, artificial, ersatz, dummy, false, faux, spurious, bogus, counterfeit, fraudulent, forged, pseudo
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Late Middle English: from Latin praetendere stretch forth, claim from prae before + tendere stretch The adjective dates from the early 20th century.