Pretense, pretension, make-believe are comparable though seldom interchangeable when they involve the idea of offering something false or deceptive as real or true.
Pretense may denote false show in general, or the evidence of it. The term may apply also to an act that is performed, an appearance that is assumed, or a statement that is made in the hope that it will convince others of the truth or reality of something that is false or unreal.
Pretension (see also CLAIM AMBITION ) is rarely used in place of pretense as a concrete act, appearance, or statement, but it is often used in the sense of false show or the evidence of it, with, however, somewhat differing implications. Where pretense in this general sense often implies hypocrisy or intentional deceit, pretension suggests rather an unwarranted assumption that one possesses certain desirable qualities or powers, and therefore more often implies overweening conceit or self-deception.
Make-believe applies usually to pretense or pretenses that arise not so much out of a desire to give others a false impression as out of a strong or vivid imagination (as that of children or poets who like to take what their fancies create as real or as true). The term is occasionally used to denote the acceptance against one’s better judgment of something manifestly unreal or untrue because of some power in the thing itself or in its accompaniments.