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 Turns out, Brett is a rich, phony, cheater who cheats. Jessica Macleish, Teen Vogue, "Jughead Sure Has Been Lying to Betty a Lot on "Riverdale"," 30 Jan. 2020 Prince, who was responsible for confirming receipt of all goods coming in to EODTEU 2, would sign phony packing slips indicating the phantom items had arrived. Justin Rohrlich, Quartz, "A group of sham companies sold the US Navy $2.7 million worth of nothing," 26 Jan. 2020 During the call, Hysell persuaded the victim to assist in a phony sting operation by placing cash under an outdoor trash can, police said. Robin Goist, cleveland, "Akron man accused of impersonating cop in scheme to steal money from 90-year-old man," 20 Jan. 2020 The group’s activities spanned from phony online car sales to mining personal data and selling it on the darknet. Eric Heisig, cleveland, "Romanian hacker who defrauded Ohio residents sentenced to federal prison," 8 Jan. 2020 Former Washington Redskins and Denver Broncos star Clinton Portis and nine others allegedly were part of a scheme to submit phony claims for expensive medical equipment that was never actually purchased. Aj Willingham, CNN, "5 things to know for December 13: UK, trade, impeachment, Nigeria, NFL," 13 Dec. 2019 The group’s activities spanned from phony online car sales to mining personal data and selling it on the darknet. Eric Heisig, cleveland, "Romanian hackers tried in Ohio to appeal long sentences after swindling millions through malware," 28 Dec. 2019 The con typically involves phony email accounts with addresses that are confusingly similar to the real thing. Justin Rohrlich, Quartz, "An extra letter “s” enabled a million-dollar real estate scam," 20 Nov. 2019 The group’s activities spanned from phony online car sales to mining personal data and selling it on the darkweb. Eric Heisig, cleveland, "Romanian hackers prosecuted in Ohio sentenced to federal prison for malware attack that struck thousands," 6 Dec. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun 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 The Global Times, a Chinese newspaper that often takes a hawkish line, published an article in English on Wednesday — before the Pentagon’s briefing on the injuries to two American pilots — that quoted military experts calling the accusations phony. Steven Lee Myers, New York Times, "Lasers and Missiles Heighten U.S.-China Military Tensions," 4 May 2018 The Catcher in the Rye is Holden Caulfield’s hate of phonies. Tatum Dooley, Teen Vogue, "Skincare Line SK-II Announces AI Spokesperson Named YUMI," 27 June 2019 Justice’ contact me to tell me of the phony Russia problem? Peter Baker, New York Times, "Trump Versus Law Enforcement: A Confrontation With No Precedent," 26 May 2018 In the holding cell, the phony inmates prompted Martinez to talk. Teri Figueroa, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Man, 20, found guilty of murder in 2018 Sunday afternoon shooting in Vista," 25 Sep. 2019 Speaking of phonies, the BBC reports that Hong Kong is creating decoy protesters: Hong Kong police have admitted deploying officers disguised as anti-government protesters during mass unrest that rocked the city on Sunday. Casey Newton, The Verge, "Amazon’s Twitter ambassadors are blurring the line between fact and fiction," 16 Aug. 2019 Calling him a liar, a phony and a failure who did not have the interests of the American people, the candidates collectively took a different approach than the Wednesday debate participants. Anchorage Daily News, "Rivals attack Biden, with Harris leading way on race issues," 28 June 2019 Investigators suspect the intent was to sell the phony rings as a collection. BostonGlobe.com, "Jones on All-WNBA first team team," 12 Sep. 2019 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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Learn More about phony

Time Traveler for phony

Time Traveler

The first known use of phony was in 1889

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Statistics for phony

Last Updated

4 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Phony.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/phony. Accessed 18 Feb. 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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More from Merriam-Webster on phony

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for phony

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with phony

Spanish Central: Translation of phony

Nglish: Translation of phony for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of phony for Arabic Speakers

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