When you operate under a pretense, you're not being honest. You're pretending. If you say you're going to a party because you’re eager to see your friend, but really you're just interested in the birthday cake, you’re acting on pretense.

Pretense involves deceiving on purpose, and it's usually something you shouldn’t be proud of. Under the pretense of being a college student, you might sneak into a library restricted to enrolled students. That’s dishonest and deceitful. But pretense isn’t always bad. You might not want to hurt your mother’s feelings, so you make a pretense of loving her tuna casserole, even though you’re trying not to gag on it.

Definitions of pretense

n the act of giving a false appearance

feigning, pretence, pretending, simulation
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appearance, show
pretending that something is the case in order to make a good impression
make-believe, pretend
the enactment of a pretense
affectation, affectedness, mannerism, pose
a deliberate pretense or exaggerated display
making a false outward show
a theatrical pose created for effect
radical chic
an affectation of radical left-wing views and the fashionable dress and lifestyle that goes with them
Type of:
deceit, deception, dissembling, dissimulation
the act of deceiving

n pretending with intention to deceive

dissembling, feigning, pretence
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pretense that your position is stronger than it really is
pretext, stalking-horse
something serving to conceal plans; a fictitious reason that is concocted in order to conceal the real reason
hypocrisy, lip service
an expression of agreement that is not supported by real conviction
a pretext for delay or inaction
crocodile tears
a hypocritical display of sorrow; false or insincere weeping
Type of:
deceit, deception, misrepresentation
a misleading falsehood

n a false or unsupportable quality

pretence, pretension
Type of:
the quality of being produced by people and not occurring naturally

n an artful or simulated semblance

guise, pretence, pretext
Type of:
color, colour, gloss, semblance
an outward or token appearance or form that is deliberately misleading

n imaginative intellectual play

make-believe, pretence
Type of:
imagery, imagination, imaging, mental imagery
the ability to form mental images of things or events

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