phish·​ing | \ ˈfi-shiŋ How to pronounce phishing (audio) \

Definition of phishing

: a scam by which an Internet user is duped (as by a deceptive e-mail message) into revealing personal or confidential information which the scammer can use illicitly

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from phishing

phisher \ ˈfi-​shər How to pronounce phisher (audio) \ noun

Did You Know?

Phishing is one of the many new computer-related terms that have found their way into the general lexicon over the past decade or so. Its "ph" spelling is influenced by an earlier word for an illicit act: "phreaking." Phreaking involves fraudulently using an electronic device to avoid paying for telephone calls, and its name is suspected of being a shortening of "phone freak." A common phishing scam involves sending e-mails that appear to come from banks requesting recipients to verify their accounts by typing personal details, such as credit card information, into a Web site that has been disguised to look like the real thing. Such scams can be thought of as "fishing" for naive recipients.

Examples of phishing in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Apart from the risk of spending too much time on silly animal videos, there’s a greater menace — that of being financially and emotionally manipulated by malware, phishing schemes or scams. Elizabeth Heath, Washington Post, "Go ahead and watch. Cute or funny animal videos can be good for you.," 26 June 2020 As a result, this girl now goes to senior centers to help older adults understand the basics of cybersecurity and learn ways to protect themselves, from password protection to recognizing phishing scams. Sylvia Acevedo, Wired, "The Cyberwar Needs More Women on the Front Lines," 11 June 2020 The activity is also in keeping with Russia's actions ahead of the 2016 United States presidential election in which Russian hackers launched highly consequential phishing attacks against campaigns and political organizations. Andy Greenberg, Wired, "Security News This Week: China and Iran Tried to Hack the Biden and Trump Campaigns," 6 June 2020 The hackers appeared to be using conventional spear-phishing attacks like those Russian hackers used in 2016 to access the personal emails of John Podesta, then Hillary Clinton's campaign manager. Harold Maass, TheWeek, "10 things you need to know today: June 5, 2020," 5 June 2020 An Iranian group, known as APT 35, attacked Trump campaign staff through phishing attacks, according to Shane Huntley, director for Google’s Threat Analysis Group. Caitlin Yilek, Washington Examiner, "Trump and Biden campaigns targeted by suspected Chinese and Iranian hackers," 4 June 2020 Google imposes this restriction because the temporary passcodes are susceptible to phishing and attacks that compromise the app. Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, "Nest users now covered by Google’s ultra-secure Advanced Protection Program," 1 June 2020 More advanced chatbots could similarly be used to make more convincing fake social media accounts, or to automate phishing campaigns. Will Knight, Wired, "A New Chatbot Tries a Little Artificial Empathy," 29 Apr. 2020 This kind of phishing scam is extremely common, but the social distancing initiatives due to the pandemic have given scammers a reason to crank up their efforts. Popular Science, "Scams are thriving during COVID-19. Here’s what to watch out for.," 17 Apr. 2020

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

See More

First Known Use of phishing

1996, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for phishing

alteration (influenced by phreaking) of fishing

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about phishing

Time Traveler for phishing

Time Traveler

The first known use of phishing was in 1996

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about phishing

Statistics for phishing

Last Updated

30 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Phishing.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Jul. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for phishing


phish·​ing | \ ˈfi-shiŋ How to pronounce phishing (audio) \

Legal Definition of phishing

: a fraudulent operation by which an e-mail user is duped into revealing personal or confidential information which can be used for illicit purposes (as identity theft)

History and Etymology for phishing

alteration of fishing (probably influenced by phreaking illegal access to a phone system)

More from Merriam-Webster on phishing

Nglish: Translation of phishing for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about phishing

Comments on phishing

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


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

A More Exception(al) Quiz

  • hot dog  hot dog  hot dog  hot dog cat
  • Which of the following words is not a synonym for ‘a young person’?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

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!