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noun \ˈsham\

Simple Definition of sham

  • : something that is not what it appears to be and that is meant to trick or deceive people

  • : someone who deceives people by pretending to be a particular kind of person, to have a particular skill, etc.

  • : words or actions that are not sincere or honest

Full Definition of sham

  1. 1 :  a trick that deludes :  hoax <feared that the deal was a sham>

  2. 2 :  cheap falseness :  hypocrisy <saw through the hollowness, the sham, the silliness of the empty pageant — Oscar Wilde>

  3. 3 :  an ornamental covering for a pillow

  4. 4 :  an imitation or counterfeit purporting to be genuine

  5. 5 :  a person who shams

Examples of sham

  1. He claims that the trial was a sham.

  2. Their marriage was a sham.

  3. Many people believed he could help them, but I knew he was a sham.

  4. She exposed their sham and hypocrisy.

Origin of sham

perhaps from English dialect sham shame, alteration of English shame

First Known Use: 1677

Synonym Discussion of sham

imposture, fraud, sham, fake, humbug, counterfeit mean a thing made to seem other than it is. imposture applies to any situation in which a spurious object or performance is passed off as genuine <their claim of environmental concern is an imposture>. fraud usually implies a deliberate perversion of the truth <the diary was exposed as a fraud>. sham applies to fraudulent imitation of a real thing or action <condemned the election as a sham>. fake implies an imitation of or substitution for the genuine but does not necessarily imply dishonesty <these jewels are fakes; the real ones are in the vault>. humbug suggests elaborate pretense usually so flagrant as to be transparent <creating publicity by foisting humbugs on a gullible public>. counterfeit applies especially to the close imitation of something valuable <20-dollar bills that were counterfeits>.

Other Household Terms

Rhymes with sham




Simple Definition of sham

  • : not real

Full Definition of sham

  1. 1 :  not genuine :  false, feigned

  2. 2 :  having such poor quality as to seem false

Examples of sham

  1. <a sofa upholstered in sham leather>

  2. <street vendors selling sham designer handbags to gullible tourists>


First Known Use of sham





Simple Definition of sham

  • : to act in a way that is meant to trick or deceive people

Full Definition of sham


  1. transitive verb
  2. :  to go through the external motions necessary to counterfeit

  3. intransitive verb
  4. :  to act intentionally so as to give a false impression :  feign

sham·mer play \ˈsha-mər\ noun

Examples of sham

  1. She wasn't really hurt; she was only shamming.

  2. He was shamming illness to avoid work.


First Known Use of sham


Synonym Discussion of sham

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>.

Medical Dictionary


adjective \ˈsham\

Medical Definition of sham

  1. :  being a treatment or procedure that is performed as a control and that is similar to but omits a key therapeutic element of the treatment or procedure under investigation <sham surgery, in which doctors make an incision in a patient's knee and manipulate the joint, but don't clean out fluid, debris, and torn cartilage—Liz Kowalczyk> <a sham injection of saline solution>

Seen and Heard

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February 7, 2016

a slight offense

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