Did you know?

Click any word in a definition or example to find the entry for that word

pretend - definition and synonyms

What are red words?

90% of the time, speakers of English use just 7,500 words in speech and writing. These words appear in red, and are graded with stars. One-star words are frequent, two-star words are more frequent, and three-star words are the most frequent.

Thesaurus diagram

The thesaurus of synonyms and related words is fully integrated into the dictionary. Click on the thesaurus category heading under the button in an entry to see the synonyms and related words for that meaning.

verb     pretend pronunciation in British English
Word Forms
present tense
present participlepretending
past tensepretended
past participlepretended
Related words
  1. 1
    [intransitive/transitive] to behave in a particular way because you want someone to believe that something is true when it is not

    We were never going to make the marriage work, so why pretend?

    pretend to do something:

    She closed her eyes and pretended to be asleep.

    pretend (that):

    I’m sorry, but I can’t just sit back and pretend it hasn’t happened.

    pretend otherwise (=pretend that something is not true):

    I know you hate my haircut, so it’s no good pretending otherwise.

    pretend something:

    It was useless to pretend innocence.

  2. 2
    [intransitive/transitive] to imagine that something is true when you are playing a game
    pretend (that):

    They’re pretending they’re astronauts again.

    pretend to be someone/something:

    The little girl was pretending to be a lion.

  3. 3
    [transitive] [usually in negatives] to claim that something is true when it is not
    pretend (that):

    I’m not going to pretend we achieved a lot.

    pretend to do something:

    I don’t pretend to have all the answers.

    pretend to something:

    He’s never pretended to any great knowledge of art.



to manipulate someone psychologically so that they begin to question their own perceptions and memories

BuzzWord Article

Open Dictionary

Dunning-Kruger effect

the phenomenon by which an incompetent person is too incompetent to understand his own incompetence

add a word


A must for anyone with an interest in the changing face of language. The Macmillan Dictionary blog explores English as it is spoken around the world today.

global English and language change from our blog
Macmillan learn live love play