adjective, pho·ni·er, pho·ni·est, noun, plural pho·neys, verb (used with object), pho·neyed, pho·ney·ing.

Related formspho·ney·ness, noun


or pho·ney


adjective, pho·ni·er, pho·ni·est.

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 pho·nies.

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), pho·nied, pho·ny·ing.

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 formspho·ni·ly, adverbpho·ni·ness, noun

Synonyms for phony Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for phoney

Historical Examples of phoney

  • 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.

British Dictionary definitions for phoney


esp US phony


adjective -nier or -niest

not genuine; fake
(of a person) insincere or pretentious

noun plural -neys or -nies

an insincere or pretentious person
something that is not genuine; a fake
Derived Formsphoneyness or esp US phoniness, noun

Word Origin for phoney

C20: origin uncertain


adjective, noun -nier or -niest or plural -nies

a variant spelling (esp US) of phoney
Derived Formsphoniness, 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

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