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


variants: or less commonly phoney
plural phonies also phoneys

Definition of phony (Entry 2 of 4)

: one that is phony


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

Other Words from phony


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

Synonyms & Antonyms for phony

Synonyms: Adjective

Synonyms: Noun

Synonyms: Verb

Antonyms: Adjective

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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
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Consumers don't want ad experiences that come off invasive, phony, or salesy. Gary Drenik, Forbes, 7 July 2022 Putin, Andropov’s KGB acolyte, built on that foundation in launching the war on Ukraine, creating fake videos of atrocities against Russians, false-flag attacks, phony reports of Ukrainian nukes and bioweapons, and much more. Washington Post, 25 Mar. 2022 The video has been used by pro-Russia social media accounts and others to claim that Ukrainians are faking war deaths and that the mainstream media is broadcasting phony reports about Ukrainian casualties. Daniel Dale, CNN, 10 Mar. 2022 In text messages, Dadyan and her brother-in-law discussed how to create phony payroll reports and invent employer identification numbers that would look legitimate to government loan monitors. Gregory Yee, Los Angeles Times, 23 Feb. 2022 To impress her office crush Colin (Dylan O’Brien), a callow pothead-turned-globe-trotting influencer with a grotty Pete Davidson-esque charisma, Danni concocts a phony invitation to a writers retreat in Paris. Amy Nicholson, Variety, 20 July 2022 That company was banned from Facebook during the 2020 election cycle after the social media company accused it of posting misinformation from phony accounts. Richard Ruelas, The Arizona Republic, 20 July 2022 The problem over phony reviews is not new for Amazon, or e-commerce as a whole. Haleluya Hadero, Chicago Tribune, 19 July 2022 The Bar reported that bogus lawyer had posted the phony Bar card, which used a license number of another attorney who did not know Medina, the warrant said. al, 5 July 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun It could even be said that the biggest phony of the lot is Mr. Trump himself, former ally of the Clintons and other unreliable causes. Gerard Baker, WSJ, 16 May 2022 Two television ads from a super PAC called Pennsylvania Conservative Fund try to portray Oz as a phony who is merely pretending to be a conservative. Daniel Dale, CNN, 8 Apr. 2022 Professor Harold Hill is the ultimate phony — and Hugh Jackman, unfortunately, isn’t playing one. Washington Post, 11 Feb. 2022 But Nez felt like a phony even though the producers placated him by including a couple of his songs on the early albums. Andy Greene, Rolling Stone, 9 Jan. 2022 And there’s a guy with a computerized fake eyeball that’s occasionally given to popping out and rolling around—everything about this phony eyeball is funny. Stephanie Zacharek, Time, 29 Sep. 2021 Carlson is revealed as just another phony—the exact kind of person Carlson the magazine writer would have skewered. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, 16 Sep. 2021 And your stage persona is usually making fun of a show-business-phony-type person. Jesse David Fox, Vulture, 16 Sep. 2021 But the screen Larry saw for a bank statement was likely a phony. Dallas News, 21 June 2021 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,, 29 Mar. 2018 See More

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.

First Known Use of phony


1889, in the meaning defined above


1902, in the meaning defined above


1940, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for phony


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


derivative of phony entry 1


derivative of phony entry 1 or phony entry 2

Noun combining form

borrowed from Greek -phōnia, from -phōnos "having a sound (of the kind or number specified)" (derivative of phōnḗ "sound made by something living, voice, speech, utterance") + -ia -ia entry 1 — more at phono-

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phonus bolonus



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Last Updated

7 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Phony.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for phony


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


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

More from Merriam-Webster on phony

Nglish: Translation of phony for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of phony for Arabic Speakers


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