1

phony

adjective pho·ny \ ˈfō-nē \
variants: or less commonly phoney
Updated on: 16 Nov 2017

Definition of phony

phonier; phoniest
: 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 elegance
  • New Republic

phonily

play \ˈfō-ni-lē\ adverb

phoniness

play \ˈfō-nē-nəs\ noun

phony was our Word of the Day on 02/12/2010. Hear the podcast!

Examples of phony in a Sentence

  1. a phony watch with a designer logo

  2. she always has this phony smile just before she betrays you

Recent Examples of phony from the Web

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.

Did You Know?

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.

Origin and Etymology of 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


2

phony

noun
variants: or less commonly phoney

Definition of phony

plural phonies also phoneys
: one that is phony

Examples of phony in a Sentence

  1. According to him, politics is full of phonies.

  2. I don't think she ever meant to help us. What a phony!

Recent Examples of phony from the Web

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

1902


3

phony

verb

Definition of phony

phonied; phonying
transitive verb
: counterfeit, fake often used with up
  • a paper phonied up on the spur of the moment
  • —William Faulkner

Examples of phony in a Sentence

  1. the terrorists were able to move around the country using phonied driver's licenses

First Known Use of phony

1940


-phony

noun combining form
variants: or less commonly -phonia

Definition of -phony

1 : sound
  • telephony
2 usually -phonia : speech disorder of a (specified) type
  • dysphonia

Origin and Etymology of -phony

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


PHONY Defined for English Language Learners

phony

adjective

Definition of phony for English Language Learners

  • : 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

Definition of phony for English Language Learners

  • : 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 Defined for Kids

1

phony

adjective pho·ny
variants: also phoney \ˈfō-nē\

Definition of phony for Students

phonier; phoniest
: not real or genuine
  • a phony dollar bill
  • The principal's laugh sounded phony
  • —Andrew Clements, Frindle

2

phony

noun
variants: also phoney

Definition of phony for Students

plural phonies also phoneys
1 : a person who is not sincere
2 : something that is not real or genuine


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