adjective, fals·er, fals·est.


dishonestly; faithlessly; treacherously: Did he speak false against me?


    play someone false, to betray someone; be treacherous or faithless.

Origin of false

before 1000; Middle English, Old English fals < Latin falsus feigned, false, orig. past participle of fallere to deceive; reinforced by or reborrowed from Anglo-French, Old French fals, feminine false < Latin
Related formsfalse·ly, adverbfalse·ness, nounhalf-false, adjectivequa·si-false, adjectivequa·si-false·ly, adverb

Synonyms for false

1. mistaken, incorrect, wrong, untrue. 2. untruthful, lying, mendacious. 3. insincere, hypocritical, disingenuous, disloyal, unfaithful, inconstant, perfidious, traitorous. 4. misleading, fallacious. 5. artificial, spurious, bogus, forged. False, sham, counterfeit agree in referring to something that is not genuine. False is used mainly of imitations of concrete objects; it sometimes implies an intent to deceive: false teeth; false hair. Sham is rarely used of concrete objects and usually has the suggestion of intent to deceive: sham title; sham tears. Counterfeit always has the implication of cheating; it is used particularly of spurious imitation of coins, paper money, etc.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for false

Contemporary Examples of false

Historical Examples of false

  • It was not that she could not say "I have done no wickedness;" let us place this heroine in no false light.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • She could feel its false precision, its intention, its repulse of her.

  • The happy man is he who knows his limitations, yet bows to no false gods.

    Ballads of a Bohemian

    Robert W. Service

  • Had her father forced her into the false position in which she found herself?

    Weighed and Wanting

    George MacDonald

  • But Mammon was never the name of an idol or other form of false deity.

British Dictionary definitions for false



not in accordance with the truth or facts
irregular or invalida false start
untruthful or lyinga false account
not genuine, real, or natural; artificial; fakefalse eyelashes
being or intended to be misleading or deceptivea false rumour
disloyal or treacherousa false friend
based on mistaken or irrelevant ideas or factsfalse pride; a false argument
(prenominal) (esp of plants) superficially resembling the species specifiedfalse hellebore
serving to supplement or replace, often temporarilya false keel
  1. (of a note, interval, etc) out of tune
  2. (of the interval of a perfect fourth or fifth) decreased by a semitone
  3. (of a cadence) interrupted or imperfect


in a false or dishonest manner (esp in the phrase play (someone) false)
Derived Formsfalsely, adverbfalseness, noun

Word Origin for false

Old English fals, from Latin falsus, from fallere to deceive
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

Word Origin and History for false

late 12c., from Old French fals, faus (12c., Modern French faux) "false, fake, incorrect, mistaken, treacherous, deceitful," from Latin falsus "deceived, erroneous, mistaken," past participle of fallere "deceive, disappoint," of uncertain origin (see fail).

Adopted into other Germanic languages (cf. German falsch, Dutch valsch, Danish falsk), though English is the only one in which the active sense of "deceitful" (a secondary sense in Latin) has predominated. False alarm recorded from 1570s. Related: Falsely; falseness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with false


In addition to the idioms beginning with false

  • false alarm
  • false colors
  • false start
  • false step

also see:

  • lull into (false sense of security)
  • play false
  • ring false
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.