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The Complete Vocabulary Builder Workbook



How to pronounce phony (audio)

Dictionary definition of phony

Fake, fraudulent, or not genuine, often with the intent to deceive or mislead.
"The documentary exposed the phony claims of the self-proclaimed expert."

Detailed meaning of phony

When we characterize something as phoney, we emphasize its lack of authenticity and the pretense or falseness associated with it. Phoney items, claims, or behavior appear to be real or legitimate on the surface but are, in fact, deceptive or spurious. This term conveys a sense of insincerity and a deliberate attempt to manipulate or misrepresent, typically for personal gain or to create a false impression. Whether it's phoney documents, phoney promises, or phoney personas, this adjective underscores the lack of genuineness and the presence of deceit or dishonesty in the subject.

Example sentences containing phony

1. His accent was phoney and it was clear he was not from the country he claimed to be.
2. She was a phoney friend and only hung out with her when it was convenient.
3. His smile was phoney and didn't reach his eyes.
4. She was always putting on a phoney persona to impress others.
5. He was a phoney businessman, who only cared about making money.
6. She was good at detecting phoney people and avoided them.

History and etymology of phony

The adjective 'phony' has its etymological roots in American English slang. It is believed to have emerged in the late 19th century, likely as a shortening of the word 'counterfeit.' While the exact origin of 'phony' is not well-documented, it gained popularity as a colloquial term for something fake, fraudulent, or not genuine, often with the intent to deceive or mislead. Its informal and somewhat playful nature captures the sense of something being false or insincere. The word 'phony' has since become a part of everyday language, used to describe anything from counterfeit money to deceptive behavior. Its etymology reflects its emergence as a catchy and accessible term for describing inauthentic or deceptive qualities.

Quiz: Find the meaning of phony

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Further usage examples of phony

1. He was phoney in his approach and didn't truly care about the cause.
2. She was a phoney socialite, who only attended events for the sake of appearances.
3. She was always phoney with her emotions, never showing her true feelings.
4. He was a phoney intellectual, who only pretended to be knowledgeable.
5. She was tired of the phoney people in her life and decided to surround herself with genuine friends.
6. He exposed the elaborate phony investment scheme.
7. Her friendly demeanor hid a phony, self-serving agenda.
8. Be cautious of phony online sellers peddling counterfeit goods.
9. The forged document bore a phony, easily detectable signature.
10. His apologies felt rehearsed and phony, lacking sincerity.
11. She quickly saw through his phony charm and manipulative tactics.
12. The counterfeit watch was an obvious phony, poorly crafted.
13. Authorities uncovered a phony passport in his possession.
14. Phony rumors, like wildfire, spread unchecked on social media.
15. His phony excuses for missing the meeting failed to convince.
16. A phony alibi landed him in hot water with the authorities.
17. The phony online reviews were fabricated to boost sales.
18. The suspicious email raised concerns with its phony sender.
19. The phony psychic's false predictions deceived vulnerable clients.
20. Many were duped into buying phony designer bags, thinking they were authentic.
21. Phony promises from the politician left her deeply disillusioned.
22. Using a phony diploma cost him his job and reputation.
23. Authorities confiscated the phony ID used to gain illegal access.
24. She maintained a phony smile, concealing her true feelings.
25. The play's credibility suffered due to phony actors' unconvincing performances.



fraudulent, genuine, authentic, real


Deceit and Pretense, Clandestine and Conniving, Duplicity and Deceit, Middle School 9, Guile and Manipulation

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