- 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.
- something that is phony; a counterfeit or fake.
- an insincere, pretentious, or deceitful person: He thought my friends were a bunch of phonies.
- 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
SynonymsSee more synonyms for phony on Thesaurus.com
4. fraud, imitation, hoax.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018
Examples from the Web for 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
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
esp US phony
- not genuine; fake
- (of a person) insincere or pretentious
- an insincere or pretentious person
- something that is not genuine; a fake
C20: origin uncertain
- a variant spelling (esp US) of phoney
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