false flag


plural false flags
: a hostile or harmful action (such as an attack) that is designed to look like it was perpetrated by someone other than the person or group responsible for it
In case you didn't know, a false flag is an incident that is designed to deceive people into thinking it was actually carried out by someone else.Nick Giambruno
… ex-House of Commons clerk Eliot Wilson argues in an article for the paper that "it does not take the mind of a conspiracy theorist" to imagine that Downing Street may have been behind what now appears to have been a false flag.Joe Evans
often used before another noun
a false flag operation
false flag attacks
The false flag conspiracy theory circulated widely after the riot …Ted Sickinger
: a deliberate misrepresentation of motives or identity
Maybe more troublesome is the fact that a small percentage of sources were recruited under false flags or based on coercion.Nel Marais
also : something used to misrepresent motives or identity
The Russian hackers had attempted to blame North Korea, China and other adversaries as the culprit of those assaults through a series of false flags implanted in the malware that were designed to throw investigators off track. Cynthia Brumfield
"Craft" is a false flag, a depoliticization of art and thus an undermining of art's ability to change or even to question the status quo. Jonathan Dee
: a flag used to disguise the identity of something (such as a ship)

Examples of false flag in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web On June 27, having engaged with conspiracy theories about the subject over a number of days, Musk alleged that the Oregon skirmish was a false flag. Donie O'Sullivan, CNN, 20 Nov. 2023 The Biden administration issued a new warning that Russia could begin targeting non-military vessels in the Black Sea in a false flag operation, accusing Ukraine of the attack. Mike Brest, Washington Examiner, 20 July 2023 For weeks, Ukraine has been accusing Russia of planning to create a false flag incident at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which has been under Russian control since the early days of the war. Jamie McIntyre, Washington Examiner, 5 July 2023 Talk of the ‘Matrix’ and ‘false flags’ hold no weight in court. Kory Grow, Rolling Stone, 14 June 2023 The country has previously staged false flag operations to try and justify assaults on Ukraine. Taylor Wilson, USA TODAY, 4 May 2023 There are alternative possibilities to a Ukrainian operation or a false flag. David Hambling, Forbes, 4 May 2023 On the former president’s Truth Social platform, some believed the call to protest was a trap or a false flag to entice antifa protesters. Petula Dvorak, Washington Post, 20 Mar. 2023 But Kyiv, the United States and other Western allies have also accused Russia of planning false flag operations throughout the conflict in order to provide a pretext for its own escalation. Matthew Bodner, NBC News, 2 Mar. 2023 See More

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

Word History

First Known Use

1569, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of false flag was in 1569

Dictionary Entries Near false flag

Cite this Entry

“False flag.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/false%20flag. Accessed 7 Dec. 2023.

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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