verb \ ˈfān \
|Updated on: 19 Jul 2018

Definition of feign

feigned; feigning; feigns
1 a : to give a false appearance of : induce as a false impression
  • feign death
b : to assert as if true : pretend
  • He feigned that he was not feeling well so that he could leave the party early.
2 archaic
b : to give fictional representation to
3 obsolete : disguise, conceal
: pretend, dissemble
  • He told the truth because he was no good at feigning.



feign was our Word of the Day on 06/22/2016. Hear the podcast!

Examples of feign in a Sentence

  1. I wince, feigning interest in a TV Guide and mumbling a hello. —Douglas CouplandGeneration X1991
  2. Success keeps her busy. "Relaxation?" she asks, feigning puzzlement. "What's that?" —Jennifer JohnstonNew WomanNovember 1990
  3. … Brad would sometimes clown or feign clumsiness just to crack her composed expression with a blush or a disapproving frown. —John UpdikeTrust Me1987
  4. I would never feign illness just to get out of a test.

Recent Examples of feign from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'feign.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

The Shape of The History of feign

Feign is all about faking it, but that hasn't always been so. In one of its earliest senses, feign meant "to fashion, form, or shape." That meaning is true to the term's Latin ancestor: the verb fingere, which also means "to shape." The current senses of feign still retain the essence of the Latin source, since to feign something, such as surprise or an illness, requires one to fashion an impression or shape an image. Several other English words that trace to the same ancestor refer to things that are shaped with either the hands, as in figure and effigy, or the imagination, as in fiction and figment.

Origin and Etymology of feign

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"), 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," Sanskrit pari…déhat "will cover over, smear over"

Synonym Discussion of 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

FEIGN Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of feign for English Language Learners

  • : to pretend to feel or be affected by (something)

FEIGN Defined for Kids


verb \ ˈfān \

Definition of feign for Students

feigned; feigning
: pretend 2
  • feigning sickness

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up feign? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!


to hasten

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Test Your Emoji Exceptionalism

  • test-your-emoji-exceptionalism-written-with-a-lot-of-emoji
  • What is this emoji intended to represent: 🤳
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!