verb (used without object)

to try to obtain financial or other confidential information from Internet users, typically by sending an email that looks as if it is from a legitimate organization, usually a financial institution, but contains a link to a fake website that replicates the real one.

verb (used with object)

to make (someone) a victim in this way: If you've been phished, you should cancel your credit cards immediately.

Sometimes brand spoof.
Compare vish.

Origin of phish

1995–2000; respelling (influenced by phreak) of fish
Related formsphish·er, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for phishing

Contemporary Examples of phishing

  • One challenge is that this isn't a virus or a hacker attack—it's just a phishing scam, an attempt to trick people.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Is Your Mac Safe?

    Dan Lyons

    June 21, 2011

  • Once a user had heard about this phishing expedition, though, they were unlikely to engage with it again.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Facebook Chat Gets Hijacked

    Alex Leo

    February 17, 2011

British Dictionary definitions for phishing



the practice of using fraudulent e-mails and copies of legitimate websites to extract financial data from computer users for purposes of identity theft

Word Origin for phishing

C21: from fishing in the sense of catching the unwary by offering bait; computer-hacker slang often replaces f with ph
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 phishing

in the cyber scam sense, by 2000 (some sources cite usage from 1995); alteration of fishing (n.); perhaps by influence of phreak and the U.S. rock band Phish, which had been performing since 1983.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper