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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from phony

Adjective

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

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Early last week, phony vaccination cards were first discovered on Etsy, among other online marketplaces. Erica Campbell, refinery29.com, 10 June 2021 Undercover agents purchased four fake cards for $20 each at the Old Corner Saloon in Clements after the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control received complaints about the phony cards. Thuc Nhi Nguyen Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 7 May 2021 Khalifah suspects that some purchasers of the phony cards are anti-vaxxers who don't plan on becoming immunized, but still want whatever access the card affords them. Megan Cerullo, CBS News, 21 Apr. 2021 This was the police response to a call about a phony $20 bill. Star Tribune, 13 Apr. 2021 As the pandemic surged, and states implemented testing and quarantine requirements, scammers touted phony coronavirus tests that yielded only negative results. Washington Post, 2 June 2021 Setting up a fake website or phony customer service line can be an easy way for scammers to steal cash. Susan Tompor, Detroit Free Press, 28 May 2021 The Biden Ukraine conspiracy that Giuliani and his associates promoted is as phony as their nonexistent evidence that the 2020 presidential election was rigged. Dahleen Glanton Chicago Tribune, Star Tribune, 30 Apr. 2021 The Ryanair flight was passing through Belarus' airspace while traveling from Athens to Lithuania's capital, Vilnius, when it was diverted to Minsk for an emergency landing because of the phony bomb threat. Patrick Reevell, ABC News, 23 May 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun But the screen Larry saw for a bank statement was likely a phony. Susan Tompor, Detroit Free Press, 15 June 2021 This authenticity translates to their content, and kids can spot a phony a mile away, have responded accordingly. Angela Chan, Forbes, 10 May 2021 In trying to weed out a phony, reviewers can consider the slant of the writing and how letters are shaped and spaced. Michael R. Blood And Kathleen Ronayne, USA TODAY, 16 Mar. 2021 Even mild-mannered GOP politicos and writers call Uncle Joe a phony, a liar, a dunce, a socialist: Our turn. Keith C. Burris, Star Tribune, 14 Apr. 2021 In trying to weed out a phony, reviewers can consider the slant of the writing and how letters are shaped and spaced. Michael R. Blood And Kathleen Ronayne, USA TODAY, 16 Mar. 2021 In trying to weed out a phony, reviewers can consider the slant of the writing and how letters are shaped and spaced. Michael R. Blood And Kathleen Ronayne, USA TODAY, 16 Mar. 2021 In trying to weed out a phony, reviewers can consider the slant of the writing and how letters are shaped and spaced. Michael R. Blood And Kathleen Ronayne, USA TODAY, 16 Mar. 2021 In trying to weed out a phony, reviewers can consider the slant of the writing and how letters are shaped and spaced. Michael R. Blood And Kathleen Ronayne, USA TODAY, 16 Mar. 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, Philly.com, 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.

See More

First Known Use of phony

Adjective

1889, 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

derivative of phony entry 1

Verb

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-

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More About phony

Listen to Our Podcast About phony

Statistics for phony

Last Updated

20 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Phony.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/phony. Accessed 23 Jun. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

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

More from Merriam-Webster on phony

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for phony

Nglish: Translation of phony for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of phony for Arabic Speakers

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Return of Name that Color!

  • a light greenish blue color
  • Name that color:
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Typeshift

Anagram puzzles meet word search.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!