phony

adjective
pho·ny | \ˈfō-nē \
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 \ adverb
phoniness \ˈfō-nē-nəs \ noun

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

Fresenius claims Akorn officials sought to cover up that rogue employees falsified test results and the company's executives submitted the phony findings in three FDA drug applications. Jef Feeley, chicagotribune.com, "Akorn's lax computer security linked to deal cancellation," 10 July 2018 Investigators also discovered fraudulent diplomatic license plates, a phony diplomatic security badge, unauthorized credit cards, thousands of dollars in cash, and financial documents in the name of a member of the Saudi Royal family. Jay Weaver, miamiherald, "Fake sultan's scam of a Miami billionaire fizzled after reckless Ferrari drive, pork meals," 6 July 2018 Authorities say the suspects aren't U.S. citizens and are reported to have phony ID cards and documentation. CBS News, "Police seeking 2 women seen with suspect in teen sisters' rape," 5 July 2018 Japan complained in 2003 that WTO jurists had stretched the law by determining that Japanese health officials used phony science to ban American apples. Greg Rushford, WSJ, "Trump’s War on the WTO," 4 July 2018 There’s no phony nihilist world destruction, no apocalyptic overkill. Stephanie Zacharek, Time, "Review: Ant-Man and the Wasp Has Stakes as Small as Its Superheroes But It’s Hard to Dislike," 3 July 2018 In November 2013, the titanium with the phony labels and certificates were shipped to Lewis Machine. David Owens, courant.com, "Owners Of Metals Company That Defrauded Pratt & Whitney And Subcontractor Face Prison," 28 June 2018 In that case, Neuwirth pleaded guilty to conspiring to create phony military spouse IDs to defraud banks in Texas and surrounding states, according to the Houston Chronicle. Maria Clark, NOLA.com, "Man shot in leg in Algiers: NOPD," 1 June 2018 Airlines suspect that many fliers are taking advantage of the law by passing off their household pet as an emotional support animal, with the help of phony credentials to avoid the animal transport fees. Hugo Martin, latimes.com, "Pit bull fans bark back at Delta Air Lines' ban on the breed," 29 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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 Movie-wise, the structure is an obvious digital phony, although the effects artists do a much better job on Sawyer’s amputated leg, which looks convincingly real, and adds a touch of vulnerability to the famously able-bodied Johnson. Gary Thompson, Philly.com, "The Rock's towering presence fails to elevate 'Skyscraper'," 11 July 2018 Those traits manifested themselves once more in his searing denunciations of Donald Trump as a phony. Adam Bernstein, BostonGlobe.com, "Charles Krauthammer, Pulitzer-winning columnist and intellectual provocateur, dies at 68," 21 June 2018 Those traits manifested themselves once more in his searing denunciations of Donald Trump as a phony. Adam Bernstein, Washington Post, "Charles Krauthammer, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and intellectual provocateur, dies at 68," 21 June 2018 The phony-baloney nature of the rescissions, mostly aimed at on-paper authority to spend money that was not going to be spent, has created a political quandary for people in both parties. Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, "After Blowing Up the Deficit, House Passes Mostly Phony Spending Cuts," 8 June 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

16 Sep 2018

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)

: 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)

: 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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