Portend vs pretend

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Portend and pretend are two words that are close in pronunciation and spelling, but have very different meanings. We will examine the definitions of portend and pretend, where these words came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

Portend means to serve as an omen or a warning, or to forecast something, especially something that is momentous or calamitous. Portend is a transitive verb, which is a verb that takes an object. Related words are portends, portended, portending, portentous. The term portend is derived from the Latin word portendere which means to reveal or to foretell.

Pretend means to imagine that something is true that is not true, or to behave as if something is true that is not true. Children often pretend when engaging in play. Pretend is a transitive verb, related words are pretends, pretended, pretending. The word pretender is interesting, as it may simply mean one who pretends, but may also refer to someone who claims a position or office, usually one that they are not entitled to occupy. The word pretend is derived from the Latin word praetendere which means to allege or to claim.


As science continues to portend a dismal climate future, 17 agencies have made the rare decision to join forces under a banner of environmental protection. (Adweek)

It could also portend the rise of an ‘automotive Foxconn’ for electric cars – an idea discussed by industry executives for years. (Reuters)

Manchester United remain the biggest club in the country, the richest football team in the world and a sporting brand as mighty as any on the global stage, so how much longer can everyone continue to pretend they do not need to win the Premier League? (The Telegraph)

Robbers pretended to be utility meter readers to get entrance to a Lavallee, Christiansted home Tuesday afternoon, then robbed a family at gunpoint. (The St. John Source)