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From Middle French pretensse, from Late Latin praetēnsus (past participle of praetendō (to pretend), from prae- (before) + tendō (to stretch)).


  • IPA(key): /ˈpɹiːtɛns/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɛns
  • Hyphenation: pre‧tence


pretence (countable and uncountable, plural pretences)

  1. (British spelling) An act of pretending or pretension; a false claim or pretext.
    • 1819, Oliver Goldsmith, Charles Coote, The History of England, from the Earliest Times to the Death of George the Second, Volume 3, p.115,
      Great armaments were therefore put on foot in Moravia and Bohemia, while the elector of Saxony, under a pretence of military parade, drew together about sixteen thousand men, which were posted in a strong situation at Pima.
    • 1915, G[eorge] A. Birmingham [pseudonym; James Owen Hannay], chapter I, in Gossamer, New York, N.Y.: George H. Doran Company, OCLC 5661828:
      There is an hour or two, after the passengers have embarked, which is disquieting and fussy. [] Passengers wander restlessly about or hurry, with futile energy, from place to place. Pushing men hustle each other at the windows of the purser's office, under pretence of expecting letters or despatching telegrams.
    • 1995, Charlie Lewis, Peter Mitchell, Children′s Early Understanding Of Mind: Origins And Development, p.281,
      In pilot work we have used the method described in Experiment 2 on children′s memory for the content of their own false beliefs and pretence and asked them to differentiate between belief and pretence.
    • 2005, Plato, Lesley Brown (translator), Sophist, 231b.
      That part of education that turned up in the latest phase of our argument, the cross-examination of the empty pretence of wisdom, is none other, we must declare, than the true-blooded kind of sophistry.
  2. (obsolete) Intention; design.