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
(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 upa 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

Synonyms: Noun

Synonyms: Verb

Antonyms: Adjective

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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 Attorney General Mark Brnovich said the phony signatures included one purporting to be from the attorney general's mother. Andrew Oxford, The Arizona Republic, "School board member and former Arizona legislative candidate indicted on suspicion of fraud, forgery," 18 Sep. 2020 More than $1 billion in such phony mortgages were eventually sold to Colonial, which listed them on its books as legitimate assets. orlandosentinel.com, "Ex-owner of Florida mortgage firm freed after 9 years of 30-year term for massive fraud," 15 Sep. 2020 The fake crowds and phony noise were tolerable, at least for a few games. Tim Dahlberg, Star Tribune, "Column: Kelly makes sure cheating Astros get some payback," 29 July 2020 Police tried calling the number for the phony customer support representative, but no one answered. Bruce Geiselman, cleveland, "Phony customer support representative scams man out of $999: North Olmsted Police Blotter," 5 Sep. 2020 Over the years, scam artists have long targeted small businesses — and even mammoth enterprises — with phony invoices. Susan Tompor, Detroit Free Press, "Fake invoices for phony grants target PayPal customers," 2 Sep. 2020 Among the targets were Democratic nominee Joe Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, who were criticized by the phony network as immoral tools of political conservatives. Author: Elizabeth Dwoskin, Craig Timberg, Anchorage Daily News, "Facebook says it took down a Russian operation that recruited US journalists, amid rising concerns about election misinformation," 1 Sep. 2020 Among the targets were Democratic nominee Joe Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala D. Harris, who were criticized by the phony network as immoral tools of political conservatives. Washington Post, "Facebook takes down a Russian operation that recruited U.S. journalists amid rising concerns regarding election misinformation," 1 Sep. 2020 Smollett, an actor who was living in Chicago during filming of the television show ’Empire,’ was accused last year of staging a phony hate crime on himself. Jason Meisner, chicagotribune.com, "Judge to consider releasing full report on handling of Smollett case by State’s Attorney Kim Foxx," 28 Aug. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun His opponent is a phony, the captive of sinister leftist forces. Susan B. Glasser, The New Yorker, "The Malign Fantasy of Donald Trump’s Convention," 28 Aug. 2020 Putting on airs or a false front will come off as phony, so be yourself to get the best results. oregonlive, "Horoscope for April 17, 2020: Taurus, stay above it all; Scorpio, don’t be a phony," 17 Apr. 2020 This is what happens to someone who loyally gets appointed Attorney General of the United States & then doesn’t have the wisdom or courage to stare down & end the phony Russia Witch Hunt. Howard Koplowitz | Hkoplowitz@al.com, al, "Trump endorses Tommy Tuberville over Jeff Sessions in Alabama Senate race," 11 Mar. 2020 This is what happens to someone who loyally gets appointed Attorney General of the United States & then doesn’t have the wisdom or courage to stare down & end the phony Russia Witch Hunt. BostonGlobe.com, "Trump attacks Sessions ahead of primary runoff for US Senate," 4 Mar. 2020 This is what happens to someone who loyally gets appointed Attorney General of the United States & then doesn’t have the wisdom or courage to stare down & end the phony Russia Witch Hunt. New York Times, "The Coronavirus. The Stock Market. Now Biden’s Comeback Adds to Trump’s Bad Week.," 4 Mar. 2020 Tax identity theft is an on-going crime as con artists steal personal data and then attempt to use your Social Security number to file a phony tax return and collect a tax refund. Susan Tompor, Detroit Free Press, "You might have to prove your identity to get Michigan tax refund," 13 Feb. 2020 Federal prosecutors charged a Florida doctor for allegedly taking $26 million from Medicaid, Medicare and other health insurance for phony health procedures. Ivan Pereira, ABC News, "Doctor allegedly took $26 million from insurers with phony medical procedures: Prosecutors," 16 Feb. 2020 Prince divided up his unit’s purchases from L&K and (and from two other phony companies controlled by Cloman and a third co-conspirator) into multiple orders of less than $100,000. Justin Rohrlich, Quartz, "A group of sham companies sold the US Navy $2.7 million worth of nothing," 26 Jan. 2020 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

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 combining form

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

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Time Traveler for phony

Time Traveler

The first known use of phony was in 1889

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Statistics for phony

Last Updated

23 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Phony.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/phony. Accessed 26 Sep. 2020.

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More Definitions for phony

phony

adjective
How to pronounce -phony (audio)

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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Comments on phony

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