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

Aleksey Lukashev, an email phishing specialist with Unit 26165 of Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate, often abbreviated GRU. Raphael Satter,, "Long-hidden hackers unmasked by special counsel investigation," 13 July 2018 With this access, scam artists can download malware to the victim's computer, launch phishing attacks against the victim's contacts and access the victim's personal information such as tax returns or health records, the FBI said. Angela Forburger, azcentral, "FBI: Big increase in tech-support fraud in Arizona this year," 3 July 2018 The phishing email came from a hacker who pretended to be a company employee. John Sowell, idahostatesman, "This Boise firm says personal data of 4,000 employees, customers may have been stolen," 26 June 2018 The material includes advice for designating a single manager to lead a cybersecurity program, and for avoiding common security threats such as phishing, and other guidance, said Ms. Todt. Jeff Stone, WSJ, "Cyber Initiative Aims to Translate Fortune 500 Security Lessons for Smaller Firms," 25 June 2018 The invasions included ransomware, which makes a computer's files unusable unless the device's user or owner pays a ransom, and phishing, in which emails that look legitimate are used to steals information. Joyce M. Rosenberg, USA TODAY, "Small businesses vulnerable to cyberattacks, then don't act, new survey finds," 18 June 2018 Disney’s government fell victim to an email phishing scheme that ended up costing about $94,000, documents show. Gabrielle Russon,, "Disney's Reedy Creek loses $94,000 in phishing scheme," 25 June 2018 The investigation revealed that Ojo controlled the email accounts used in the phishing scheme, officials said. Nicholas Rondinone,, "Nigerian Man Admits Stealing $36,000 Using Glastonbury School Employees' Tax Information," 22 June 2018 Meanwhile, the people behind phishing attacks are getting much better. Casey Newton, The Verge, "Google’s Mark Risher tells us why everything we know about passwords is wrong," 6 June 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

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

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Dictionary Entries near phishing



phi phenomenon


Phi Tong Luang



Statistics for phishing

Last Updated

29 Jul 2018

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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)

More from Merriam-Webster on phishing

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

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