Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Medical
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary


verb \ˈfān\

Simple Definition of feign

  • : to pretend to feel or be affected by (something)

Full Definition of feign

  1. intransitive verb
  2. :  pretend, dissemble

  3. transitive verb
  4. 1 a :  to give a false appearance of :  induce as a false impression <feign death> b :  to assert as if true :  pretend

  5. 2 archaic a :  invent, imagine b :  to give fictional representation to

  6. 3 obsolete :  disguise, conceal

feign·er noun

Examples of feign

  1. I wince, feigning interest in a TV Guide and mumbling a hello. —Douglas Coupland, Generation X, 1991

  2. Success keeps her busy. “Relaxation?” she asks, feigning puzzlement. “What's that?” —Jennifer Johnston, New Woman, November 1990

  3. … Brad would sometimes clown or feign clumsiness just to crack her composed expression with a blush or a disapproving frown. —John Updike, Trust Me, 1987

  4. <I would never feign illness just to get out of a test.>

Origin of feign

Middle English, from Anglo-French feign-, stem of feindre, from Latin fingere to shape, feign — more at dough

First Known Use: 13th century

Synonym Discussion of feign

assume, affect, pretend, simulate, feign, counterfeit, sham mean to put on a false or deceptive appearance. assume often implies a justifiable motive rather than an intent to deceive <assumed an air of cheerfulness around the patients>. affect implies making a false show of possessing, using, or feeling <affected an interest in art>. pretend implies an overt and sustained false appearance <pretended that nothing had happened>. simulate suggests a close imitation of the appearance of something <cosmetics that simulate a suntan>. feign implies more artful invention than pretend, less specific mimicry than simulate <feigned sickness>. counterfeit implies achieving the highest degree of verisimilitude of any of these words <an actor counterfeiting drunkenness>. sham implies an obvious falseness that fools only the gullible <shammed a most unconvincing limp>.

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up feign? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


February 5, 2016

bread traditionally eaten on Shabbat

Get Word of the Day daily email!


Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!


Which of the following refers to thin, bending ice, or to the act of running over such ice?

spindrift pince-nez kittly-benders duvet
Name That Thing

10 quick questions: hear them, spell them, and see how your skills compare to the crowd.


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.