feigned; feigning; feigns

transitive verb

: to give a false appearance of : induce as a false impression
feign death
: to assert as if true : pretend
He feigned that he was not feeling well so that he could leave the party early.
: to give fictional representation to
obsolete : disguise, conceal

intransitive verb

: pretend, dissemble
He told the truth because he was no good at feigning.
feigner noun

Did you know?

The Shape of the History of Feign

Feign is all about faking it, but that hasn't always been so. An early meaning of the word is "to fashion, form, or shape." That meaning comes from its Latin source: the verb fingere. In time, people began fashioning feign to suggest the act of forming, or giving shape to, false appearances.

Choose the Right Synonym for feign

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

Example Sentences

I wince, feigning interest in a TV Guide and mumbling a hello. Douglas Coupland, Generation X, 1991
Success keeps her busy. "Relaxation?" she asks, feigning puzzlement. "What's that?" Jennifer Johnston, New Woman, November 1990
… Brad would sometimes clown or feign clumsiness just to crack her composed expression with a blush or a disapproving frown. John Updike, Trust Me, 1987
I would never feign illness just to get out of a test.
Recent Examples on the Web Shipman feigned a bunt then pulled back for a single down the left field line giving Alabama a 2-0 lead. Nick Alvarez | Nalvarez@al.com, al, 28 May 2023 Rendon accuses the fan of insulting him as the Angels left the field, and feigned towards the man before disengaging. Gabe Lacques, USA TODAY, 31 Mar. 2023 What poured out of Fisher and Gage was a raucous comedy about a happy-ending masseuse hired to pleasure a deeply repressed blue blood who has spent his life feigning heterosexuality. Matthew Jacobs, Vulture, 11 Mar. 2023 But the members of Congress asking those questions feigned little interest in Chew’s responses anyway. WIRED, 23 Mar. 2023 Johnson has sent out multiple fundraising emails about the East Palestine derailment, feigning concern for the community before shamelessly asking voters to pay off his campaign debts. Prem Thakker, The New Republic, 28 Feb. 2023 The group was recognized by its signature strategy of pretending to be reporters or researchers and feigning interest in their targets’ work as a pretext for setting up interview requests embedded with a spear-phishing link. WIRED, 21 Mar. 2023 Enter Email Sign Up After Williams missed the first, nearly 45 seconds passed before his next attempt, as Cavaliers players feigned confusion in the lane and slowed the pace of the proceedings. Adam Himmelsbach, BostonGlobe.com, 8 Mar. 2023 Try using a touch of concealer to feign sparse brows—or fill them in with a sharp pencil rather than powder to create a thinner, more refined look. Tia Williams, Harper's BAZAAR, 22 Feb. 2023 See More

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

Word History


Middle English feynen, feignen "to make, fabricate, make a likeness of, dissemble, pretend to be," borrowed from Anglo-French feign-, stem of feindre, going back to Latin fingere "to mold, fashion, make a likeness of, pretend to be," going back to Indo-European *dhi-n-ǵh- (whence also Old Irish con-utuinc "builds, constructs," Armenian dizanem "[I] heap up"), present tense derivative of *dhei̯ǵh- "knead, shape," whence Gothic digan "to knead, form from clay," Old Church Slavic ziždǫ, zĭdati "to build," Lithuanian žiedžiù, žiẽsti "to form, shape (from clay)" (Balto-Slavic with metathesis of stop consonants), Armenian edēz "(s/he) heaped up," Tocharian B tsik- "fashion, shape, build," Sanskrit pari … déhat "will cover over, smear over"

Note: See also etymologies at dough, paradise, and thigmotropism.

First Known Use

13th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

Time Traveler
The first known use of feign was in the 13th century


Dictionary Entries Near feign

Cite this Entry

“Feign.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/feign. Accessed 8 Jun. 2023.

Kids Definition


: to give a false appearance of : fake
feign illness
: to state as if true
feign an excuse

More from Merriam-Webster on feign

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