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coun·​ter·​feit ˈkau̇n-tər-ˌfit How to pronounce counterfeit (audio)
: made in imitation of something else with intent to deceive : forged
counterfeit money
a counterfeit diamond
: insincere, feigned
counterfeit sympathy
counterfeit joy at her friend's engagement
: imitation
counterfeit Georgian houses


2 of 3


counterfeited; counterfeiting; counterfeits

transitive verb

: to imitate or feign especially with intent to deceive
also : to make a fraudulent replica of
counterfeiting $20 bills

intransitive verb

: to try to deceive by pretense or dissembling
: to engage in counterfeiting something of value
counterfeiter noun


3 of 3


: something counterfeit : forgery
The $20 bill turned out to be a counterfeit.
: something likely to be mistaken for something of higher value
Pity was a counterfeit of love …Harry Hervey
Choose the Right Synonym for counterfeit


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


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

Examples of counterfeit in a Sentence

Adjective The concert ticket is counterfeit. counterfeit currency that had been passed all over town Verb They were counterfeiting money in his garage. an expert at counterfeiting money Noun the will as well as the other documents turned out to be counterfeits
Recent Examples on the Web
Tangent There are 38 reports of counterfeit semaglutide in the FDA’s Adverse Events Reporting System between 2020 and October 5. Ty Roush, Forbes, 30 Nov. 2023 According to court documents in San Diego federal court, similar groups operating locally have installed card skimmers, usually known as overlay skimmers, by installing a counterfeit faceplate over the top of a legitimate card reader. Alex Riggins, San Diego Union-Tribune, 23 Nov. 2023 There are a number of counterfeit whiskies floating around, unfortunately, so Edrington, the company that owns The Macallan, wanted to make sure this one was the real deal. Jonah Flicker, Robb Report, 21 Nov. 2023 The hospitalizations are among 42 reports to the FDA's Adverse Event Reporting System that mention use of counterfeit semaglutide from around the world. Alexander Tin, CBS News, 7 Nov. 2023 The cargo facility is monitoring large shipments to track for any counterfeit items. Alexandra Skores, Dallas News, 14 Sep. 2023 Sow and Jalloh ran a large-scale counterfeit goods trafficking operation out of the storage facility from January 2023 through Oct. 20, according to the allegations contained in the indictment and other publicly available information. Michael Dorgan, Fox News, 16 Nov. 2023 Some online pharmacies may offer additional discounts or promotional offers that further reduce the cost of generic Viagra. Cons: There is a risk of encountering fraudulent online pharmacies that sell counterfeit medications. Amber Smith, Discover Magazine, 5 Nov. 2023 And officials picked up Kelly in January of that same year in Texas, and charged him with possession of counterfeit bonds. Sean Williams, Rolling Stone, 2 Oct. 2023
There’s much research out there on those basic matching tasks, and attackers are also adept at framing others (for example, counterfeiting Shakespeare) and obfuscating their own identities (being Shakespeare but writing differently to throw detectives off the scent). Sarah Scoles, Popular Science, 2 Nov. 2023 The tussles point to a pattern—there were many instances before Parmigiano-Reggiano counterfeits and there may be many after, experts have warned. Prarthana Prakash, Fortune, 18 Aug. 2023 Not only is the brand flat-out counterfeited and sold in fake packaging, but someone who just wants the smell can also pay around 50 bucks for a nearly identical scent in a budget bottle. Jane Daly, Harper's BAZAAR, 13 July 2023 Federal prosecutors charged her in January with one count of stealing or counterfeiting keys and two counts of mail theft, charges that could have led to a prison sentence. City News Service, San Diego Union-Tribune, 12 Aug. 2023 Tackling Chinese counterfeiting ‘epidemic’ Timmons said Congress needs to address the issue of Chinese companies making counterfeit versions of American products. Ricardo Torres, Journal Sentinel, 23 Feb. 2023 After all, there was no way to counterfeit what went off at the park jam. Andre Gee, Rolling Stone, 16 June 2023 And with hard tickets, they could be counterfeited. Meghan Montemurro, Chicago Tribune, 27 Mar. 2023 They can also be easily counterfeited using modern technology. Gary Singer, Sun Sentinel, 23 Feb. 2023
For example, in a Twitter thread, Bruner pointed to the counterfeits using wires (rather than flexible PCBs), which AirPods haven't used since the original, non-Pro offering. Scharon Harding, Ars Technica, 9 Nov. 2023 The records do not prove whether the counterfeits caused the complaints or might have been incidental to the report. Alexander Tin, CBS News, 7 Nov. 2023 Other Considerations There have been KF94 masks for sale on Amazon, but Collins was concerned about potential counterfeits. Korin Miller, Health, 31 Oct. 2023 Despite all of Adidas’s attempts to get its official Messi jerseys into stores as quickly as possible, the clamor for them — any version of them — has proved so great that counterfeits have flooded the global market to meet the shortfall. Rory Smith, New York Times, 23 Oct. 2023 The explosion in dupes has also partly come from the surge in e-commerce, said Daniel Shapiro, senior vice president of strategic partnerships and brand relationships at Red Points, which helps companies fight counterfeits, piracy, impersonation and distribution abuse. Medora Lee, USA TODAY, 12 June 2023 To fight counterfeits, some food makers are turning to chips, not of the edible kind. IEEE Spectrum, 8 Sep. 2023 One company now has the power to wreck its workers’ bodies (in many towns, Amazon is the only major employer), choke our streets with delivery vans, and ruin small businesses by inviting counterfeits or cloning their products. Cory Doctorow, WIRED, 7 Sep. 2023 The Fraud by Zadie Smith Buy on Bookshop Penguin Press, 464 pp., $29.00 Each of Smith’s characters is wary of fakes, counterfeits, and illusions. Lynn Steger Strong, The New Republic, 15 Sep. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'counterfeit.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Adjective, Verb, and Noun

Middle English countrefet, from Anglo-French cuntrefeit, from past participle of cuntrefere, contrefaire to imitate, from cuntre- + faire to make, from Latin facere — more at do

First Known Use


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of counterfeit was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near counterfeit

Cite this Entry

“Counterfeit.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 3 verb
coun·​ter·​feit ˈkau̇nt-ər-ˌfit How to pronounce counterfeit (audio)
: to imitate or copy especially in order to deceive
counterfeiting money
: pretend entry 1 sense 1, feign
counterfeit enthusiasm to mask boredom
counterfeiter noun


2 of 3 adjective
: made in exact imitation of something else with the intention of deceiving : forged
counterfeit money
: not sincere : sham


3 of 3 noun
: something counterfeit : forgery

Legal Definition


1 of 3 adjective
coun·​ter·​feit ˈkau̇n-tər-ˌfit How to pronounce counterfeit (audio)
: made in imitation of a genuine article (as a document) without authorization and especially with intent to deceive or defraud


2 of 3 transitive verb
: to make an imitation of without authorization and especially with intent to deceive or defraud
whoever falsely makes, alters, forges, or counterfeits any deedU.S. Code
counterfeiter noun


3 of 3 noun
: something counterfeit
all counterfeits of any coins or obligationsU.S. Code
compare forgery


Middle French contrefait, past participle of contrefaire to imitate, draw, paint, from contre- counter- + faire to make

More from Merriam-Webster on counterfeit

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