phony

adjective
pho·​ny | \ ˈfō-nē How to pronounce phony (audio) \
variants: or less commonly phoney
phonier; phoniest

Definition of phony

 (Entry 1 of 4)

: not genuine or real: such as
a(1) : intended to deceive or mislead
(2) : intended to defraud : counterfeit
b : arousing suspicion : probably dishonest something phony about the story
c : having no basis in fact : fictitious phony publicity stories
d : false, sham a phony name
e : making a false show: such as
(1) : hypocritical
(2) : specious has a phony poetic eleganceNew Republic

phony

noun
variants: or less commonly phoney
plural phonies also phoneys

Definition of phony (Entry 2 of 4)

: one that is phony

phony

verb
phonied; phonying

Definition of phony (Entry 3 of 4)

transitive verb

: counterfeit, fake often used with up a paper phonied up on the spur of the moment— William Faulkner
variants: or less commonly -phonia

Definition of -phony (Entry 4 of 4)

1 : sound telephony
2 usually -phonia : speech disorder of a (specified) type dysphonia

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Other Words from phony

Adjective

phonily \ ˈfō-​ni-​lē How to pronounce phonily (audio) \ adverb
phoniness \ ˈfō-​nē-​nəs How to pronounce phoniness (audio) \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for phony

Synonyms: Adjective

bogus, counterfeit, fake, false, forged, inauthentic, queer, sham, snide, spurious, unauthentic

Synonyms: Noun

counterfeit, fake, forgery, hoax, humbug, sham

Synonyms: Verb

counterfeit, fake, forge

Antonyms: Adjective

authentic, bona fide, genuine, real, unfaked

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Did You Know?

Adjective

It's the backstory of phony that deserves our attention. Phony (which dates from the early 1900s) is believed to be an alteration of the British fawney, the word for a gilded brass ring used in a confidence game called the "fawney rig." In this game, the trickster drops a ring (or a purse with some valuables in it) and runs to pick the item up at the same time as the poor sap who notices it on the ground. The trickster asserts that the found treasure should be split between them. The one who's "found" the item, convinced now of its value, chooses instead to give the con artist some money in order to keep the item, which is, of course, phony.

Examples of phony in a Sentence

Adjective

a phony watch with a designer logo she always has this phony smile just before she betrays you

Noun

According to him, politics is full of phonies. I don't think she ever meant to help us. What a phony!

Verb

the terrorists were able to move around the country using phonied driver's licenses
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

To make things worse, the accusations within this phony attack received national attention for weeks. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "The Smollett Hoaxers," 21 Feb. 2019 And Russia, in his mind, remains a phony witch hunt. Cristian Farias, Daily Intelligencer, "The Supreme Court Will Make Trump Talk to Mueller If It Has To," 3 May 2018 Meanwhile, phony conservative accounts — @Amconvoice, @JohnCopper16, and @CovfefeNationUS (really) — would attack Democrats. Andrew Prokop, Vox, "Justice Department charges Russian national with conspiring to interfere with 2018 midterms," 19 Oct. 2018 Now, this includes using the phony Clinton bought and paid for dossier to go after the former Trump campaign chairman. Fox News, "Hannity: President Trump takes bold action on the border," 3 Apr. 2018 In the election's immediate aftermath, another study found 27 percent of voters consumed news engineered by phony, partisan websites that drew a majority of clicks from social media. Sam Blum, Popular Mechanics, "If the 2018 Election Is Hacked, This Is How It Will Happen," 5 Nov. 2018 So we are left with this phony shutdown war in which the extremes of both parties set the agenda to no good result. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "The Phony Shutdown War," 23 Dec. 2018 Nicol has a ridiculously evil ex-boyfriend lurking around, but the movie isn’t about forcing a phony confrontation between him and Mark. Jesse Hassenger, The Verge, "Welcome to Marwen is Robert Zemeckis’ most revealing movie — and his worst," 20 Dec. 2018 In 1992, the Trump children created a phony company, All County Building Supply & Maintenance, to pad the cost of their father’s building purchases. Rachel Withers, Vox, "Tenants today are reportedly still paying for a Trump family tax scheme from the 1990s," 15 Dec. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Meghan Markle is a little phony for that fake British accent coming through. Kathleen Joyce, Fox News, "Meghan Markle appears to adopt British accent in new video," 2 Oct. 2018 Trump on the campaign trail called the unemployment rate phony, so these claims are flip-flops. Salvador Rizzo, Washington Post, "Anatomy of a Trump rally: 76 percent of claims are false, misleading or lacking evidence," 10 July 2018 But the slippers reported to have been in the collector's mansion were phonies, and divers found nothing at the... Kristine Phillips, The Seattle Times, "No place like the rightful home: Stolen ruby slippers from ‘Wizard of Oz’ recovered by FBI," 4 Sep. 2018 Bothell investigators found Mylett’s accuser had gone so far as to create phony, backdated email exchanges that contained the address of a Bothell rental home where Mylett temporarily lived. Lewis Kamb, The Seattle Times, "‘I wouldn’t wish this upon anybody’: Bellevue police chief moving ahead after investigation clears him of woman’s rape accusations," 23 Oct. 2018 Leland, meanwhile, fancies himself a kind of Holden Caulfield type, too smart for this life, able to see the phonies in a world of hypocrisy. New York Times, "This Novel Opens With a Suicide and a Suitcase of Cash. Then Things Get Really Interesting.," 21 June 2018 Facebook in December offered a bold solution for its worsening scourge of fake accounts: New facial-recognition technology to spot when a phony profile tries to use someone else's photos. The Washington Post, OregonLive.com, "Facebook's crackdown on fake accounts isn't working for everyone," 5 May 2018 Facebook in December offered a bold solution for its worsening scourge of fake accounts: New facial-recognition technology to spot when a phony profile tries to use someone else's photos. The Washington Post, OregonLive.com, "Facebook's crackdown on fake accounts isn't working for everyone," 5 May 2018 Meghan Markle is a little phony for that fake British accent coming through. Kathleen Joyce, Fox News, "Meghan Markle appears to adopt British accent in new video," 7 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

In fact, legislators and regulators are rolling back regulations designed to protect investors, who in this case are estimated to have lost $100 billion to phony Chinese firms. Gary Thompson, Philly.com, "'China Hustle': Skippack businessman exposes stock fraud in new documentary," 29 Mar. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'phony.' 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 phony

Adjective

1893, in the meaning defined above

Noun

1902, in the meaning defined above

Verb

1940, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for phony

Adjective

perhaps alteration of fawney gilded brass ring used in the fawney rig, a confidence game, from Irish fáinne ring, from Old Irish ánne — more at anus

Noun combining form

Latin -phonia, from Greek -phōnia, from -phōnos sounding — more at -phone

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Statistics for phony

Last Updated

13 May 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for phony

The first known use of phony was in 1893

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More Definitions for phony

phony

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of phony

 (Entry 1 of 2)

informal
: not true, real, or genuine : intended to make someone think something that is not true
of a person : not honest or sincere : saying things that are meant to deceive people

phony

noun

English Language Learners Definition of phony (Entry 2 of 2)

informal
: a person who pretends to be someone else or to have feelings or abilities that he or she does not really have : a person who is not sincere
: something that is not real or genuine

phony

adjective
pho·​ny
variants: also phoney \ ˈfō-​nē \
phonier; phoniest

Kids Definition of phony

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: not real or genuine a phony dollar bill The principal's laugh sounded phony— Andrew Clements, Frindle

phony

noun
variants: also phoney
plural phonies also phoneys

Kids Definition of phony (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a person who is not sincere
2 : something that is not real or genuine

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More from Merriam-Webster on phony

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with phony

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for phony

Spanish Central: Translation of phony

Nglish: Translation of phony for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of phony for Arabic Speakers

Comments on phony

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