1. something that is not what it purports to be; a spurious imitation; fraud or hoax.
  2. a person who shams; shammer.
  3. a cover or the like for giving a thing a different outward appearance: a pillow sham.
  1. pretended; counterfeit; feigned: sham attacks; a sham Gothic façade.
  2. designed, made, or used as a sham.
verb (used with object), shammed, sham·ming.
  1. to produce an imitation of.
  2. to assume the appearance of; pretend to have: to sham illness.
verb (used without object), shammed, sham·ming.
  1. to make a false show of something; pretend.

Origin of sham

First recorded in 1670–80; origin uncertain
Related formsun·shammed, adjective

Synonyms for sham

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

Antonyms for sham Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for shamming

Historical Examples of shamming

  • The constable did not know whether he was shamming or not, but he took no risks.

  • When it looked last night as if it hung right over our heads, it was shamming.

    Wilfrid Cumbermede

    George MacDonald

  • Possibly he's shamming, now; though he was stunned, as well as half-suffocated.'

    Against Odds

    Lawrence L. Lynch

  • And with this viewpoint, there was no shamming about the old man's expressions of friendship.

    The White Desert

    Courtney Ryley Cooper

  • You know I was shamming when I acted as though I had lost my identity.

    The White Desert

    Courtney Ryley Cooper

British Dictionary definitions for shamming


  1. anything that is not what it purports or appears to be
  2. something false, fake, or fictitious that purports to be genuine
  3. a person who pretends to be something other than he is
  1. counterfeit or false; simulated
verb shams, shamming or shammed
  1. 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 shamming



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