Origin of phony
OTHER WORDS FROM phonypho·ni·ly, adverbpho·ni·ness, noun
Words nearby phony
Other definitions for phony (2 of 2)
MORE ABOUT PHONY
Where does phony come from?
Phony is a word that means “fake” or “made up.” But there is nothing fake about this unusual origin story for the word. While the exact origins of phony are unknown, the word likely comes from an old con known as the fawney rig. Fawney is from an Irish word for “finger ring,” and rig is an old term for a “trick” or “swindle.”
As for how the trick worked, the swindler would “accidentally” drop a piece of cheap jewelry in front of their target. Then, they would pick it up while acting relieved that they hadn’t lost such a supposedly valuable ring. If the scheme was a success, they’d sell it to the target for much more than it was actually worth.
The roots of these other words may get a rise—of laughter or surprise—out of you. Run on over to our roundup of them at “Weird Word Origins That Will Make Your Family Laugh.”
Did you know … ?
- As you might have guessed from its origin story, phony is unrelated to telephone or other words that use the combining forms -phone and -phony, which are more about sounds.
- Phony is used in the expression phony war, a term for a fake war or an apparent momentary peace during a war.
- If something is truly nonsensical, you might go the extra lexical mile and call it phony-baloney.
How to use phony in a sentence
My goal wasn’t to try to make phony, gourmet Hot Pockets—people have done that before and that didn’t interest me.Why you should—or shouldn’t—DIY discontinued Hot Pockets|Purbita Saha|August 14, 2021|Popular-Science
Perry, the former governor, who met Ellzey years earlier when he was a pilot with no political connections, relentlessly campaigned for the candidate and got earned media attacking the ads as phony.
Pennsylvania’s agency estimated that nearly 84% of its PUA claims were phony.How Unemployment Insurance Fraud Exploded During the Pandemic|by Cezary Podkul|July 26, 2021|ProPublica
Then, using his phony passport, Fred had flown up to Vancouver, leaving James behind with no good options.
As Amy strikes up an increasingly close relationship with Bilel, Profile becomes a portrait of the internet as a vehicle for forming both authentic and phony identities.Tracing an ISIS Fighter’s Terrifying Seduction of a Female Journalist|Nick Schager|May 14, 2021|The Daily Beast
It just gets a bit phony whenever she wavers and pretends otherwise.
He was arrested trying to flee to Jordan using phony identification.Israeli Claim: Hamas Funded the Kidnapper Who Started the Gaza War|Eli Lake|August 5, 2014|DAILY BEAST
Surely they believe as well that the very concept of an ethnic nation “chosen” by God is phony and unjust.
This single program alone has generated tens of thousands of phony Twitterers.
In 2012, Facebook announced that 83 million profiles—pushing 10 percent of the total number on the site—were phony.
I would even, I decided, stoop to having him thrown in jail on a phony charge, if that should be necessary.Nine Men in Time|Noel Miller Loomis
And you knew, right away, that Swami was a phony from Flatbush.
The Swami was an obvious phony of the baldest fakery, yet he had something.
He had less than a hundred credits, a knife, a deck of phony cards, and a yellow ticket.Police Your Planet|Lester del Rey
Unless the money is phony, or the pass is phony in which case the turnstile locks and all hell breaks loose.The Syndic|C.M. Kornbluth