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 fake in a Sentence
That blood is clearly fake.
He was wearing a fake mustache.
Recent Examples on the Web
By its own admission, Facebook deletes millions, and sometimes billions, of fake pages every quarter, sometimes within minutes of their creation.—David Gilbert, WIRED, 6 Dec. 2023 When Reiner finally began work on his first feature film, the fake true story of a ridiculous British rock band, Lear stepped up financially when nobody else would.—Patrick Sauer, Smithsonian Magazine, 6 Dec. 2023 In a video shared to social media Monday, Stefani offered a glimpse of her and Shelton’s elaborate holiday decor... complete with piles of fake snow.—Meghan Overdeep, Southern Living, 5 Dec. 2023 Much of its opposition arose after the CIA, seeking to hunt down Osama bin Laden, ran a fake hepatitis vaccination program in neighboring Pakistan aimed at collecting DNA that matched that of the al-Qaeda leader.—Rick Noack, Washington Post, 5 Dec. 2023 And thank you for including me, your fake mom who left you home alone not once but twice, to share in this happy occasion.—Erin Clack, Peoplemag, 4 Dec. 2023 China has become one of the most aggressive actors attempting to sway U.S. public opinion through fake accounts on social media, Meta said Thursday, despite still finding little success in those efforts.—Kevin Collier, NBC News, 30 Nov. 2023 What’s new isn’t the ability to manipulate a video or create a fake photo; what’s new is the ease at which people can do it at scale.—Zeev Farbman, Forbes, 29 Nov. 2023 Criminals will create fake flight-booking websites and generate messages offering deals that are hard to pass over.—Megan Cerullo, CBS News, 28 Nov. 2023
But what many presumed to be a fake turned out to be a genuine likeness.—Julia Binswanger, Smithsonian Magazine, 1 Dec. 2023 Misinformation and deep fakes are always a problem in any modern election, but the ease of using generative AI tools to create deceptive content fuels concern that it will be used to mislead voters.—Emilia David, The Verge, 8 Nov. 2023 Times reporters tested dozens of pills purchased in pharmacies across the country and found that more than half were fakes containing powerful narcotics including fentanyl and methamphetamine.—Connor Sheets, Los Angeles Times, 2 Nov. 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 The people trying to sell us fakes tend to come in at the end of the day.—Ronald D. White, Los Angeles Times, 16 Nov. 2023 There’s guidelines around synthetic fakes, or fake performers who are based on the image and likeness of an actor, which is used to train generative AI.—Charisma Madarang, Rolling Stone, 10 Nov. 2023 They’ve also been used to create convincing fakes, like Balenciaga Pope and an early version of Donald Trump’s arrest.—WIRED, 24 Oct. 2023 Right now, media-forensics specialists are racing to develop technologies to ferret out fakes.—Daniel Immerwahr, The New Yorker, 13 Nov. 2023
The criminals gained access after faking a life-threatening emergency, the organization said.—Evens Sanon and Emmanuel Igunza, The Christian Science Monitor, 16 Nov. 2023 For that matter, would Dodi then fake a phone call to Mohamed, who's hellbent on allying his family with the Windsors, to tell him the romance is kaput?—Tom Gliatto, Peoplemag, 16 Nov. 2023 And while Community Notes has been expanded in an effort to respond to viral fakes more quickly, there are still a number of times when hundreds of thousands or millions of people see false information before it can be corrected.—Matt Novak, Forbes, 13 Nov. 2023 And there were plenty of other ways to fake a lifestyle that wasn’t 100% reflective of one’s income.—Chloe Berger, Fortune, 5 Nov. 2023 Footage of a funeral staged in Jordan to evade a pandemic lockdown was misrepresented as Palestinians faking deaths in Gaza.—Vaibhav Vats, The Atlantic, 26 Oct. 2023 Last year, the French government published results of a study that found nearly 1 in 4 vanilla beans sampled were faked.—Laura Reiley, Washington Post, 12 Oct. 2023 The fact that it was faked didn't stop it from being posted across the internet and rising to the top of Google search results.—Ben Goggin, NBC News, 8 Oct. 2023 Between his hidden life, his estranged relationship with his homophobic father, and psychological scarring from World War II, Hawkins has become a master of faking his way through almost every interaction, and doing whatever is necessary to protect himself.—Alan Sepinwall, Rolling Stone, 27 Oct. 2023 See More
These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'fake.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.
Not recorded as an adjective before 1879. The supposed use by the British general Richard Howe in a dispatch from Boston to the Secretary of State dated December 3, 1775 ("So many artifices have been practiced upon Strangers under the appearance of Friendship, fake Pilots &c."; Report Concerning Canadian Archives for the Year 1904, Ottawa, 1905, p. 355) is most likely a misreading (perhaps for faux or false?).
The verb fake perhaps first appears in print, in the form faik, in 1810. In James Hardy Vaux's "A New and Comprehensive Vocabulary of the Flash Language" (vol. 2 of Hardy's Memoirs, London, 1819), it receives a very general definition: "a word so variously used, that I can only illustrate it by a few examples. To fake any person or place, may signify to rob them; to fake a person, may also imply to shoot, wound, or cut; to fake a man out and out, is to kill him; a man who inflicts wounds upon, or otherwise disfigures, himself, for any sinister purpose, is said to have faked himself … to fake a screeve, is to write a letter, or other paper; to fake a screw, is to shape out a skeleton or false key, for the purpose of screwing a particular place; to fake a cly, is to pick a pocket; etc., etc., etc." (p. 170). However, Hardy also records bit-faking "coining base money" and both Vaux and the earlier Lexicon Balatronicum (London, 1811, a revision of Francis Grose's Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, 1785) record fakement in the sense "forgery." so the sense "to simulate, counterfeit" was perhaps part of its original meaning. Much earlier is the agent noun faker, defined as "maker" in a list of "Canting Terms used by Beggars, Vagabonds, Cheaters, Cripples and Bedlams." in Randle Holme's The Academy of Armory (Chester, 1688) (a book about heraldry that includes a miscellany of information having nothing to do with heraldry). Along with faker Holme lists Ben-Fakers, "Counterfeiters of Passes and Seals" (ben is defined as "good"). This expression occurs earlier as ben-feaker in Thomas Dekker's pamphlet on cant, O per se O. Or A new cryer of Lanthorne and candle-light (London, 1612): "Of Ben-feakers of Jybes …They who are Counterfeiters of Passeports, are called Ben-feakers , that is to say, Good-Makers." (It is possible that Holme simply copied his entries from Dekker.) The noun feaker/faker implies a corresponding verb feak/fake "make," for which there appears to be no certain evidence. There is feague, fegue "to beat, whip" (earliest in the compound bumfeage) and "to wear out, bring about the ruin of," which are colloquial—the second sense is only attested in Restoration drama—but not argot, and which have a voiced velar consonant (aside from a single occurrence of a participle feakt). A suggestion dating back to Nathan Bailey's An Universal Etymological English Dictionary (4th edition, 1728) is that this word is borrowed from Dutch vegen "to sweep"; compare also German fegen "to wipe, clean, sweep." For further discussion see Anatoly Liberman, "A fake etymology of the word fake," OUPblog, August 23, 2017.