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

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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

Still, an Oregon State Hospital employee clicked a phishing link in May and potentially exposed the medical data of patients., "Massive DHS data breach raises questions about Oregon’s cybersecurity protocols," 24 June 2019 Also be aware that scammers are trying to get in on the act as well, with a new phishing scam. Scott Gilbertson, WIRED, "Get Primed for Prime Day With These Tips and Early Deals," 14 July 2019 Vancore said Antonacci is spending it on a system that provides extra screening for incoming email that’s designed to thwart things like malicious phishing attempts to convince employees to open emails with malicious attachments. Anthony Man,, "Florida counties get $2.3 million for election security," 11 July 2019 The break-in apparently was targeted at individual employees and occurred through a phishing attack, in which someone on the network opens an email or an email attachment from a stranger, launching the attack. Patricia Sullivan, Washington Post, "Intruders hack Arlington payroll system, police say," 10 July 2019 In this case, Alex and Oded opened with a phishing attack over WhatsApp, but a more enterprising attacker might instead have begun with a watering-hole attack. Jim Salter, Ars Technica, "Security firms demonstrate subdomain hijack exploit vs. EA/Origin," 26 June 2019 The security office also started a statewide simulation to educate employees about phishing, said Joseph Wells, a state spokesman., "Massive DHS data breach raises questions about Oregon’s cybersecurity protocols," 24 June 2019 The events showed the importance of implementing defenses against hacks like phishing, network intrusions, and denial of service attacks for even the most transient campaign efforts. Lily Hay Newman, WIRED, "A Push to Protect Political Campaigns from Hackers Hits a Snag," 5 June 2019 Three cybersecurity startups specializing in technology to prevent phishing attacks raised nearly $140 million in venture capital in the past week, according to Crunchbase. Jonathan Vanian, Fortune, "Investors Go 'Phishing' For Gold In the Cybersecurity Market—Cyber Saturday," 22 June 2019

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.

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First Known Use of phishing

1996, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for phishing

alteration (influenced by phreaking) of fishing

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Dictionary Entries near phishing



phi phenomenon


Phi Tong Luang



Statistics for phishing

Last Updated

26 Aug 2019

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Time Traveler for phishing

The first known use of phishing was in 1996

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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

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one from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

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