pretentious

Use the adjective pretentious as a way to criticize people who try to act like they are more important or knowledgeable than they really are.

You might not be surprised to learn that pretentious is related to the word pretend, and it is an adjective that fits the bill for describing someone who's only concerned with making an impressive appearance. If you don't want to be accused of being pretentious, just act naturally and don't put on airs!

Definitions of pretentious
  1. adjective
    making claim to or creating an appearance of (often undeserved) importance or distinction
    “a pretentious country house”
    “a pretentious fraud”
    “a pretentious scholarly edition”
    Synonyms:
    arty
    showily imitative of art or artists
    artsy-craftsy, arty-crafty
    pretentiously artistic; cloyingly charming
    grandiloquent, overblown, pompous, pontifical, portentous
    puffed up with vanity
    grandiose, hifalutin, highfalutin, highfaluting, hoity-toity, la-di-da
    affectedly genteel
    high-flown, high-sounding, inflated
    pretentious (especially with regard to language or ideals)
    jumped-up
    (British informal) upstart
    nouveau-riche, parvenu, parvenue, upstart
    characteristic of someone who has risen economically or socially but lacks the social skills appropriate for this new position
    sententious
    abounding in or given to pompous or aphoristic moralizing
    sesquipedalian
    given to the overuse of long words
    tasteless
    lacking aesthetic or social taste
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    Antonyms:
    unpretentious
    lacking pretension or affectation
    plain
    not elaborate or elaborated; simple
    honest
    without pretensions
    modest
    free from pomp or affectation
    unpompous
    not pompous
    tasteful
    having or showing or conforming to good taste
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  2. adjective
    intended to attract notice and impress others
    synonyms: ostentatious
    flaunty
    inclined to flaunt
    flamboyant, showy, splashy
    marked by ostentation but often tasteless
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    Antonyms:
    unostentatious, unpretending, unpretentious
    not ostentatious
    quiet, restrained
    not showy or obtrusive
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  3. adjective
    (of a display) tawdry or vulgar
    synonyms: ostentatious
    tasteless
    lacking aesthetic or social taste
Commonly confused words

pretentious / portentous

Fake mobsters in suits and spats are pretentious. But a horse head in your bed? That's portentous. And also, call the police.

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