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Pretentious vs. Snobby: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Updated on September 28, 2023
Pretentious implies affecting greater importance than is warranted, while Snobby suggests looking down on those perceived as inferior or less cultured.

Key Differences

Pretentious and Snobby are both adjectives that describe attitudes of superiority, but they manifest differently. Pretentiousness often arises when someone feigns a higher level of knowledge, culture, or sophistication than they truly possess.
Snobby, on the other hand, has roots in social class distinctions. A snobby person often believes they're inherently superior due to their background, wealth, education, or tastes, disregarding others who don't fit their criteria.
Someone pretentious might use jargon or reference high-brow art to appear cultured, even if they lack depth in the subject. It's about creating an illusion of being more impressive or knowledgeable than is authentic.
Conversely, snobby individuals may dismiss others based on superficial judgments. They might scorn someone for shopping at a particular store or not knowing about a niche subject, making it more about exclusion than illusion.
It's worth noting that both pretentious and snobby behaviors can be off-putting. While one feigns elevated status, the other revels in perceived superiority, but both are often seen as lacking in genuine humility or respect for others.

Comparison Chart


Affecting exaggerated importance or merit
Acting superior due to wealth, status, or taste

Root Cause

Desire to seem more impressive
Sense of inherent superiority

Common Behavior

Using jargon or feigning knowledge
Dismissing or looking down on others


Often viewed as insincere or trying too hard
Seen as elitist and exclusionary


Insecurity or need for validation
Entitlement based on background or privilege

Pretentious and Snobby Definitions


Ostentatious or showy without substance.
The gala, though grand, felt pretentious to many attendees.


Displaying snobbish behaviors or attitudes.
Her snobby comments about budget shopping were uncalled for.


Claiming exaggerated importance or dignity.
His essay was filled with pretentious language.


Relating to or characteristic of people who believe they are better than others.
The film festival was criticized for its snobby selection process.


Attempting to impress by feigning more knowledge than one possesses.
Her critique seemed pretentious since she had only skimmed the book.


Looking down on others based on perceived superiority.
His snobby demeanor made it hard to connect with him.


Affecting a high level of culture or sophistication.
The tiny cafe was pretentious, with abstract art and obscure music.


Elitist and judgmental based on class or taste.
The exclusive club was known for its snobby membership.


Falsely presenting oneself as superior.
His pretentious attitude was off-putting to his peers.


Dismissive of those deemed lower in status or culture.
The critic had a snobby attitude towards popular films.


Claiming that or behaving as if one is important or deserving of merit when such is not the case
A pretentious socialite.


A person who looks down on or snubs people who that person considers as being of a lower social class.


Showing or betraying an attitude of superiority
Made pretentious remarks about his education.


A person who feels an undue sense of intellectual or aesthetic superiority
A musical snob.


Marked by an extravagant or presumptuous outward show; ostentatious
A pretentious house.


Characteristic of a snob.
His tastes are snobby.


Intended to impress others.
Her dress was obviously more pretentious than comfortable.




Marked by an unwarranted claim to importance or distinction.
Their song titles are pretentious in the context of their basic lyrics.


Befitting or characteristic of those who inclined to social exclusiveness and who rebuff the advances of people considered inferior


Full of pretension; disposed to lay claim to more than is one's; presuming; assuming.


Making claim to or creating an appearance of (often undeserved) importance or distinction;
A pretentious country house
A pretentious fraud
A pretentious scholarly edition


Intended to attract notice and impress others;
An ostentatious sable coat


Of a display that is tawdry or vulgar


Are snobs always wealthy or well-educated?

No, snobbishness can manifest in any social or cultural context.

Is being pretentious always negative?

Often it is viewed negatively, but the context matters. Sometimes, it might just be enthusiasm mistaken for pretension.

Does being pretentious mean you're lying?

Not necessarily, but it can involve exaggerating or feigning knowledge.

Why do people act snobby?

It can stem from insecurity, a need to validate one's self-worth, or cultural upbringing.

Is there a difference between being a snob and acting snobby?

Yes, one implies inherent character (being a snob) while the other is about behavior (acting snobby).

Can someone be both pretentious and snobby?

Yes, it's possible for someone to both feign superiority and also look down on others.

Can pretentiousness ever be seen as a positive?

In rare contexts, it might be seen as aspirational, but generally, it's viewed negatively.

Are snobby people always aware of their behavior?

Not always, some might be unaware, while others are deliberate in their attitudes.

What's a common sign of pretentious behavior?

Overusing jargon or name-dropping without depth can be signs.

How can one handle a pretentious individual?

Being genuine, asking questions, and avoiding getting defensive can be effective.

How can one stop being pretentious?

Self-awareness, humility, and genuine engagement can help counteract pretentious behavior.

Is there a synonym for snobby?

Yes, elitist, haughty, and uppity are a few synonyms.

Is there a direct opposite of pretentious?

Genuine, authentic, or humble can be considered opposites.

Can snobby attitudes be cultural or regional?

Yes, in some cultures or regions, certain behaviors might be more accepted or prevalent.

Why might someone be mistaken for snobby?

Reserved or introverted individuals might sometimes be perceived as snobby when they aren't.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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