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

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 Simply Money Advisors discuss a new phishing scam targeting people through tax emails. Sheila Vilvens,, "Phone scam: Warrants never served by phone, Hamilton County Sheriff's Office says," 21 June 2019 Dragos also notes that the naming conventions for domains used in the phishing attacks' infrastructure match those earlier attacks. Andy Greenberg, WIRED, "Iranian Hackers Launch a New US-Targeted Campaign as Tensions Mount," 20 June 2019 This is known as spear phishing, says Gary Davis, the chief consumer security evangelist at Intel Security. Madeline Buxton,, "Here's How To Spot & Protect Yourself Against A Phishing Scam," 14 June 2019 For now, campaigns must fend for themselves, and most are vulnerable to more phishing attacks. Nicole Perlroth, New York Times, "Election Rules Are an Obstacle to Cybersecurity of Presidential Campaigns," 6 June 2019 Burt, who said the company worked with the United States government to stop the attacks, declined to identify the candidates, and said that the phishing attempts were unsuccessful. Colin Lecher, The Verge, "Microsoft says hackers already targeted three 2018 midterm candidates," 19 July 2018

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

15 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

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

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).


characterized by aphorism

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