Q: What is a good opposite of pretentious?

The dictionary definition is:

"Attempting to impress by affecting greater importance or merit than is actually possessed."

To which I can think of:

Humility: "The quality of having a modest or low view of one's importance."

Honest/Sincere/Genuine/Truthful: "Free of deceit; truthful and sincere.", "Free from pretence or deceit; proceeding from genuine feelings.", "Truly what something is said to be; authentic.", "of undisputed origin and not a copy; genuine.", "Telling or expressing the truth; honest."

Unassuming: "Not pretentious or arrogant; modest."

Perhaps instead a short phrase like, "Humble and Honest".

However for the commonly understood or vernacular definition, which seems to have a significantly different meaning, perhaps a good opposite would be:

Artless: Without effort or pretentiousness; natural and simple.

Although it's unfortunate that "artless" is defined as being "natural".

An example: "I couldn't follow the film, I found it pretentious.", the opposite could be "The film lacked nuance and was refreshingly ..."

  • 5
    You've done the work of finding the published antonyms. But you haven't given a context to judge the 'best'. All of those work, and are each the 'best' depending on the situation. Give the criteria for what you want and then we can answer.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jun 9, 2016 at 11:58
  • You need to show us an example sentence where the antonym would be used. The following is the strict rule of this community. Questions on choosing an ideal word or phrase must include information on how it will be used in order to be answered. For help writing a good word or phrase request, see: About single word requests. Please edit your question accordingly.
    – user140086
    Commented Jun 9, 2016 at 12:23
  • I came up with a very short general one, but then edited in one that made a better whole sentence. I've had to try to put myself in the shoes of someone very different to do so. I hope @jejorda2 doesn't mind if this effects his answer.
    – alan2here
    Commented Jun 9, 2016 at 12:53
  • 1
    Why put yourself in someone else's shoes? The sentence you are struggling with, with a couple of antecedents, gives responders a sense of your style, the level at which you write as well as the context. Another aspect of looking for a single word is tone. A completely artificial construct frustrates that goal.
    – Icy
    Commented Jun 9, 2016 at 13:38
  • 1
    How about "postentious"? Commented Jun 9, 2016 at 15:35

13 Answers 13


Will unpretentious work?

Not attempting to impress others with an appearance of greater importance, talent, or culture than is actually possessed: a friendly and unpretentious hotel

in spite of his fame he was thoroughly unpretentious

1.1(Of a place) pleasantly simple and functional; modest.

(Oxford Dictionaries Online)

  • For the dictionary definition, this would work very well. I'm normally the first to put together morphemes like this, yet I did not think of that. I guess somehow it sounds wrong, as if "pre" already means something that would conflict and would therefore need dropping, although I don't think that is the case.
    – alan2here
    Commented Jun 9, 2016 at 12:55
  • Please cite the source of your link and definition. Commented Jun 9, 2016 at 13:48
  • 9
    @alan2here So Postentious? I like it. Commented Jun 9, 2016 at 18:17
  • Impretentious, maybe? Commented Jun 10, 2016 at 23:15

down-to-earth, defined by Merriam-Webster

informal and easy to talk to

practical and sensible

unpretentious -- Example: surprised to find the movie star so down–to–earth

  • This is my favorite. Updoot!
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Jun 9, 2016 at 13:40
  • @Thomas Francois Thanks for correcting my typo! (and +1 on yours)
    – ab2
    Commented Jun 9, 2016 at 13:58

Genuine (M-W) is mentioned by the OP, but there is an alternate definition which makes it more appropriate than other dismissed terms:

free from hypocrisy or pretense


unaffected (dictionary.com) -

1. free from affectation; sincere; genuine:

The man showed unaffected grief at the death of his former opponent.

2. unpretentious, as a personality or literary style.



Unassuming in the estimation of one’s abilities or achievements

"Despite the magnitude of her work, I find Kate surprisingly down to earth and genuinely modest about the achievements she will leave behind when she hands over the reins on her 65th birthday."



  1. straightforward; frank

Fits your second sentence as "...refreshingly upfront."

Source: American Heritage® Dictionary

  • Please cite the source of your link and definition. Commented Jun 9, 2016 at 13:49
  • J R Not sure how straightforward picked up the extra space as it was a straight cut-and-paste.
    – Icy
    Commented Jun 10, 2016 at 1:36

Perhaps easygoing (MW)

adjective relaxed and informal

It could work with your example sentence: The film lacked nuance and was refreshingly easygoing.

  • 1
    In my experience, "easygoing" is almost always applied to people (either individuals or groups of people, such as companies.) Applying it to a film seems a little odd to me. Commented Jun 9, 2016 at 16:51


adjective 1. belittling or undervaluing oneself; excessively modest.


Given its frequent usage of late, I'm surprised authentic (Merriam-Webster.com) hasn't been mentioned.

5 : true to one's own personality, spirit, or character


Unaffected has the most attractive flavor as the opposite of pretentious, just as "free from affectation" would counter "drenched in pretense." Of course, "unpretentious" is an exact opposite, but its use could come across as staid or boring, or lazy, should one have occasion to express both characteristics next to or too near each other. Then again. there's always "humilitous" which is itself a very pretentious word to use to express unpretentiousness.



Avoiding obvious emphasis or embellishment

"The actor's understated interpretation of the lead role is surprisingly compelling"


Though an answer has already been accepted (and Princeton University's Cognitive Science Lab interface, "WordNet," agrees with the choice of unpretentious as an antonym of pretentious), I would offer the following for those who might prefer to avoid the use of the prefix -un in this context for stylistic reasons:

Because pretentious involves claiming a typically unmerited importance for the purpose of being noticed in that regard, it seems reasonable that the opposite of that behavior might be reticent or self-effacing, i.e., reluctant to draw attention to oneself and therefore behaving in such a way as to avoid undue notice even if it was perhaps merited.

The antonym in this sense applies more to a person than the production of a person, as in the example added in the original question ("found the film pretentious").



Meaning of self-effacing as stated by Google dictionary :

tending to make oneself, one's actions, etc, inconspicuous, esp because of humility or timidity; modest

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