phish·​ing | \ ˈfi-shiŋ \

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 \ 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 phishing targeted individuals who are involved in the sanctions as well as politicians, civil and human rights activists, and journalists around the world. Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, "Iranian phishers bypass 2fa protections offered by Yahoo Mail and Gmail," 13 Dec. 2018 As Marriott noted on its FAQ site, people may receive phishing emails related to the hack, so be sure to check who the email is from. Meredith Carey, Condé Nast Traveler, "Marriott Data Breach: What to Do If You've Been Affected," 30 Nov. 2018 Google pulled out of mainland China in 2010 after discovering a phishing attack targeting human rights activists. Adi Robertson, The Verge, "Google’s prototype Chinese search engine reportedly links searches to phone numbers," 14 Sep. 2018 Photo: Emily Prapuolenis/The Wall Street Journal Security keys also help protect users from being tricked out of their credentials through a process known as phishing. David Pierce, WSJ, "The Key to Being Safer Online Is Actually a Key," 21 Oct. 2018 Microsoft did not respond to questions about why the posts had been flagged as phishing. Russell Brandom, The Verge, "Microsoft threatened to drop hosting for Gab over hate speech posts," 9 Aug. 2018 The search giant just announced its Titan Security Key Bundle, a pair of two security keys designed to act the second factor in two-factor authentication and make phishing attacks basically impossible. Eric Limer, Popular Mechanics, "Google's New Dongles Will Help Protect You From Hackers," 30 Aug. 2018 The group of men are also believed to have successfully hacked into the iCloud accounts of dozens of celebrities, such as Lucy Hale, Kirsten Dunst, Rihanna, and Kate Upton, by using a phishing scheme. Devon Elizabeth, Teen Vogue, "Hacker Who Stole Private Photos of Jennifer Lawrence Sentenced to Prison," 30 Aug. 2018 For example, the Gmail address the GRU used to test-drive its phishing messages on March 19, 2016, was also used to register a Den Katenberg Twitter account , according to Twitter’s ‘‘Find friends’’ feature. Raphael Satter,, "Long-hidden hackers unmasked by special counsel investigation," 13 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

14 Jan 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 \

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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someone who never drinks alcohol

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