from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A small pocket at the front waistline of a man's trousers or in the front of a vest, used especially to hold a watch.
  • n. A short chain or ribbon attached to a pocket watch and worn hanging in front of the vest or waist.
  • n. An ornament or seal attached to such a chain or ribbon.
  • transitive v. Archaic To cheat or deceive (another).
  • fob off To dispose of (goods) by fraud or deception; palm off: fobbed off the zircon as a diamond.
  • fob off To put off or appease by deceitful or evasive means: needed help but was fobbed off with promises.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A little pocket near the waistline of a pair of trousers or in a waistcoat or vest to hold a pocketwatch; a watch pocket.
  • n. A short chain or ribbon to connect such a pocket to the watch.
  • n. A small ornament attached to such a chain. (See Usage Notes below)
  • n. A hand-held remote control device used to lock/unlock motor cars etc.
  • v. To cheat, to trick, to take in, to impose upon someone.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A little pocket for a watch; -- callled also a watch pocket.
  • n. a short chain or ribbon attached to a pocket watch, usually worn hanging out of the watch pocket, and used to conveniently remove the watch from the watch pocket.
  • transitive v. To beat; to maul.
  • transitive v. To cheat; to trick; to impose on.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To cheat; trick; impose upon.
  • To beat; maltreat.
  • To pass off by a false representation; dispose of by deception: as, to fob off a worthless article on a customer.
  • To put into a fob; pocket; get possession of.
  • To breathe hard or with heaving sides; gasp from violent running.
  • n. A tap on the shoulder, as from a bailiff.
  • n. A cheat.
  • n. A little pocket made in the waist-band of men's breeches or trousers as a receptacle for a watch.
  • n. A watch-chain, or ribbon with buckle and seals or the like, such as is worn appended to the watch and hanging from the fob.
  • n. Froth or foam.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. short chain or ribbon attaching a pocket watch to a man's vest
  • n. an adornment that hangs from a watch chain
  • v. deceive somebody
  • n. a vest pocket to hold a pocket watch


Probably akin to Low German Fobke, small pocket.
Middle English fobben, probably from fob, trickster.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
German foppen ("to mock") (Wiktionary)


  • As far as I can tell, locking the car with the fob is a bad idea.

    Adventures in car trouble, Finale: The DMV's last cheap shot at making our life hell

  • Ben brought a Pogo animation cel for appraisal and his colleague Jessica Lewis had a Elks Club fob from the early part of last century.

    Boing Boing

  • At the Jewelry table, Adam Patrick of A La Vielle Russie, Inc. examines an Elks fob from the early 20th century.

    Boing Boing

  • The story itself is interesting, but the part that stuck out was this gadget, called a "raskat" device, which comes with a wireless keychain fob that can remotely trigger the destruction of data on a computer hard drive.

    Boing Boing

  • The out of place plushie speaks of a summer love and heart break at Christmas, the gnarly key fob is from a friend who drove into a bridge abutment, and the plastic dog dish in a house with no dogs speaks of the dog that ran away at the cottage.

    Astrology and the Kitchen

  • Bruce Schneier's op-ed on CNet about identity theft talks about why "two-factor" authentication (e.g. having to enter a password and a number that you read off of a little keychain fob) is useful for lots of things, but not for preventing identity theft.

    Boing Boing: April 10, 2005 - April 16, 2005 Archives

  • TV-B-Gone is, according to NYT, a $14.99 keychain fob that is "Essentially a one-trick remote control [that] quickly spits out roughly 200 infrared codes and, within customary remote-control range, turns off most televisions in a few seconds."

    Archive 2004-11-01

  • Great Wired News article about TV B-Gone, a keychain fob that you can use to turn off bothersome TVs in bars, airports, etc.

    Boing Boing: October 17, 2004 - October 23, 2004 Archives

  • The RFBug is a little pink keychain fob with an LED inside that blinks furiously when it's brought into range of radio frequencies between 1MHz and 2. 5GHz -- your basic data/cellular/cordless phone spectrum.

    Boing Boing: January 27, 2002 - February 2, 2002 Archives

  • I don’t remember who did it – it may have been on SNL – but there was a great skit several years back about what would happen if, instead of car alarms setting off the car’s horn, they sent a signal to a keychain fob which shocked the owner.

    It does the opposite of what you installed it to do, jerk.

Wordnik is becoming a not-for-profit! Read our announcement here.


Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • fob - pocket
    fobbing - pocketing

    now, the question is whether the current term 'to pocket' someone's possessions takes after 'to fob', or whether it's an obvious phrase, independently arisen.

    June 19, 2009

  • Now the Cinque Ports are partially or somehow under the jurisdiction of a sort of policeman or beadle, called a Lord Warden. Holding the office directly from the crown, I believe, all the royal emoluments incident to the Cinque Port territories become by assignment his. By some writers this office is called a sinecure. But not so. Because the Lord Warden is busily employed at times in fobbing his perquisites; which are his chiefly by virtue of that same fobbing of them.

    - Melville, Moby-Dick, ch. 90

    July 29, 2008