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[foh-nee] /ˈfoʊ ni/
adjective, phonier, phoniest, noun, plural phoneys, verb (used with object), phoneyed, phoneying.
Related forms
phoneyness, noun


or phoney

[foh-nee] /ˈfoʊ ni/
adjective, phonier, phoniest.
not real or genuine; fake; counterfeit:
a phony diamond.
false or deceiving; not truthful; concocted:
a phony explanation.
insincere or deceitful; affected or pretentious:
a phony sales representative.
noun, plural phonies.
something that is phony; a counterfeit or fake.
an insincere, pretentious, or deceitful person:
He thought my friends were a bunch of phonies.
verb (used with object), phonied, phonying.
to falsify; counterfeit; fabricate (often followed by up):
to phony up a document.
Origin of phony
1895-1900; perhaps alteration and respelling of fawney (slang) finger ring (< Irish fsptáinne), if taken to mean “false” in the phrase fawney rig a confidence game in which a brass ring is sold as a gold one
Related forms
phonily, adverb
phoniness, noun
4. fraud, imitation, hoax. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for phoney
Historical Examples
  • The fat red sun was strictly a phoney, and it didn't fool him any.

    The Hoofer Walter M. Miller
  • Aleck could smell a phoney before he opened the Envelope, because that is how he got His.

    Ade's Fables George Ade
  • If the number is forty-five, it means that the lad is a phoney.

    Dave Dawson at Casablanca Robert Sydney Bowen
  • If her seven clients hadn't been so phoney she might have gotten away with it.

    The Observers G. L. Vandenburg
  • This lad is here on business and has no time for our phoney hooptedo.

    Satan and the Comrades Ralph Bennitt
  • He checked up on that stuff you sold him, found out that it was phoney.

  • They'll size me for a phoney promoter excavatin' your pocketbook.

    Overland Red Henry Herbert Knibbs
  • "She put up a phoney story about the kid being hers," he added.

    Baby Mine Margaret Mayo
  • To talk about horology on the moon wouldn't add to Dabney's stature as a phoney scientist.

    Operation: Outer Space

    William Fitzgerald Jenkins
  • It had had, in fact, to be an honest job of ship-building in order to put across a phoney promotion.

    Operation: Outer Space

    William Fitzgerald Jenkins
British Dictionary definitions for phoney


adjective -nier, -niest
not genuine; fake
(of a person) insincere or pretentious
noun (pl) -neys, -nies
an insincere or pretentious person
something that is not genuine; a fake
Derived Forms
phoneyness, especially (US) phoniness, noun
Word Origin
C20: origin uncertain


adjective, noun -nier, -niest (pl) -nies
a variant spelling (esp US) of phoney
Derived Forms
phoniness, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for phoney



also phoney, "not genuine," 1899, perhaps an alteration of fawney "gilt brass ring used by swindlers."

His most successful swindle was selling "painted" or "phony" diamonds. He had a plan of taking cheap stones, and by "doctoring" them make them have a brilliant and high class appearance. His confederates would then take the diamonds to other pawnbrokers and dispose of them. ["The Jewelers Review," New York, April 5, 1899]
The noun meaning "phony person or thing" is attested from 1902.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for phoney



Not real or genuine; false; fake: You phony little fake (1900+)


  1. A fake thing: That window's a phony, it don't open (1902+)
  2. A person who affects some identity, role, nature, etc; poseur: some phony calling himself a writer (1902+)


: I ain't phoneying them woids (1942+)

[fr late 1700s British underworld slang fawney fr Irish fa´inne, ''ring,'' referring to a swindle in which the fawney-dropper drops a cheap ring before the victim, then is persuaded to sell it as if it were valuable; as the sequence of spellings, phoney and later phony, indicates, the US spelling is probably based on an attested folk etymology revealing the notion that one's feelings or even identity could be readily falsified on the telephone]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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