Nearby words

  1. shalom,
  2. shalom aleichem,
  3. shalosh seudoth,
  4. shalt,
  5. shalwar,
  6. shama,
  7. shaman,
  8. shamanic,
  9. shamanism,
  10. shamash

Origin of sham

First recorded in 1670–80; origin uncertain

1. pretense. 4. spurious, make-believe, simulated, mock. See false. 6. imitate. 7. feign, fake.

Related formsun·shammed, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for sham

British Dictionary definitions for sham


/ (ʃæm) /


anything that is not what it purports or appears to be
something false, fake, or fictitious that purports to be genuine
a person who pretends to be something other than he is


counterfeit or false; simulated

verb shams, shamming or shammed

to falsely assume the appearance of (something); counterfeitto sham illness
Derived Formsshammer, noun

Word Origin for sham

C17: perhaps a Northern English dialect variant of shame

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 sham



1670s, "a trick, a hoax, a fraud," also as a verb and an adjective, of uncertain origin; the words burst into use in 1677. Perhaps from sham, a northern dialectal variant of shame (n.); a derivation OED finds "not impossible." Sense of "something meant to be mistaken for something else" is from 1728. The meaning "false front" in pillow-sham (1721) is from the notion of "counterfeit." Related: Shammed; shamming; shammer. Shamateur "amateur sportsman who acts like a professional" is from 1896.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper