fac·​sim·​i·​le fak-ˈsi-mə-lē How to pronounce facsimile (audio)
: an exact copy
A facsimile of the world's first computer was exhibited at the museum.
: a system of transmitting and reproducing graphic matter (such as printing or still pictures) by means of signals sent over telephone lines

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The facsimile machine (or fax machine) has long been an office staple, but its name is much, much older. Fac simile is a Latin phrase meaning “make alike.” English speakers began using facsimile to mean “an exact copy” in the late 1600s. In this sense, a facsimile might be a handwritten or hand-drawn copy, or even a copy of a painting or statue. (Today, we also use the phrase “a reasonable facsimile” for a copy that is fairly close but not exact.) In the 1800s, people developed facsimile technology that could reproduce printed material via telegraph. Now, of course, we use telephone lines or wireless technology, and we usually call the resulting facsimile a fax.

Choose the Right Synonym for facsimile

reproduction, duplicate, copy, facsimile, replica mean a thing made to closely resemble another.

reproduction implies an exact or close imitation of an existing thing.

reproductions from the museum's furniture collection

duplicate implies a double or counterpart exactly corresponding to another thing.

a duplicate of a house key

copy applies especially to one of a number of things reproduced mechanically.

printed 1000 copies of the lithograph

facsimile suggests a close reproduction often of graphic matter that may differ in scale.

a facsimile of a rare book

replica implies the exact reproduction of a particular item in all details

a replica of the Mayflower

but not always in the same scale.

miniature replicas of classic cars

Examples of facsimile in a Sentence

A facsimile of the world's first computer was exhibited in the museum. the family resemblance is so strong that the boy is virtually a pint-size facsimile of his father
Recent Examples on the Web In his first job after college, Archie Colgan sold printers and copiers, but grew tired of being a facsimile of himself. Troy Renck, The Denver Post, 16 June 2024 In the first folder was a facsimile from a ledger by a Third Reich institute for racial research, which listed Anna among those deported to Łódź. John Ganz, Harper's Magazine, 22 May 2024 Embroidered on his black leather jacket was a tiny facsimile of the Palestinian flag. Ben Krull, New York Daily News, 22 Apr. 2024 The Regime cruises for a few episodes as a passable facsimile of an Armando Iannucci series like The Thick of It or Veep, buzzing on a viper’s nest of palace intrigue and a keen sense of how autocracies convert populism and propaganda into piles of dirty money. Scott Tobias, Vulture, 14 Apr. 2024 See all Example Sentences for facsimile 

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

Word History


from the Latin phrase fac simile "make alike," from fac, singular imperative of facere "to make, do, perform" + simile, neuter of similis "like, similar" — more at fact, same entry 1

Note: The phrase fac simile was well-known from its occurrence in one of the Distichs of Cato, a collection of proverbial wisdom (3rd-4th centuries a.d.) commonly used as a Latin textbook from the Middle Ages into the 18th century (though its meaning in the distich is different): "Qui simulat verbis, nec corde est fidus amicus, tu quoque fac simile—sic ars deluditur arte." ("If someone makes a pretense in speech and is not a true friend, you do likewise as well—and so art will be duped by art.")

First Known Use

1691, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of facsimile was in 1691


Dictionary Entries Near facsimile

Cite this Entry

“Facsimile.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/facsimile. Accessed 25 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


fac·​sim·​i·​le fak-ˈsim-ə-lē How to pronounce facsimile (audio)
: an exact copy
: a system of transmitting and reproducing printed matter or pictures by means of signals sent over telephone lines

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