Definitions

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

  • adj. Not genuine or real; counterfeit: a phony credit card.
  • adj. False; spurious: a phony name.
  • adj. Not honest or truthful; deceptive: a phony excuse.
  • adj. Insincere or hypocritical.
  • adj. Giving a false impression of truth or authenticity; specious.
  • n. Something not genuine; a fake.
  • n. One who is insincere or pretentious.
  • n. An impostor; a hypocrite.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Fraudulent; fake; having a misleading appearance.
  • n. A faker, a person who professes beliefs or opinions that they do not hold or assumes an identity other than their own.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. imitating something superior; intended to deceive; fraudulent; having a misleading appearance; not genuine; counterfeit; fake.
  • adj. pretending to be other than one is; putting on false appearances; insincere; hypocritical; -- of people.
  • n. something or someone that is phony.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Of the character of a ‘phone’ or of the talk heard over a ‘phone’; unsubstantial; imitational; spurious.

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

  • n. a person who professes beliefs and opinions that he or she does not hold in order to conceal his or her real feelings or motives
  • adj. fraudulent; having a misleading appearance

Etymologies

Alteration of fawney, gilt brass ring used by swindlers, from Irish Gaelic fáinne, ring, from Old Irish.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Perhaps an alteration of fawney “gilt brass ring used by swindlers” (1781), from Ir. fáinne “ring.” (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • One thing is certain; this country has endured many periods of debt and the term phony crisis is warranted.

    Pat LaMarche: The Stock Market Reacts Negatively to Bad Economic Compromises That Threaten Consumer Spending

  • Mr. Picard is seeking to recover what he calls phony investment profits withdrawn from the firm by Mr. Madoff's relatives, money they earned while working there, and funds they spent on credit cards and other purchases.

    Judge Dismisses Some Madoff Claims

  • This phony is an embarrassment to all who have honorably served our country.

    Heroes or Villains?

  • Silberman said that unlike the criticism of Scalia and Thomas, which he termed phony issues, O'Connor's advocacy "is a real ethical issue."

    Critics fault retired Justice O'Connor over ethics

  • While juggling roles as mother/musician has its inherent obstacles "I'm committed to both," she says, Brown's major hang-up in the age of instant access and immediate feedback might involve self-promotion and what she calls the "phony" aspects of social media.

    Michael Bialas: Why Pieta Brown Digs the Music of Dylan, Dire Straits and her Dad

  • ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, Barack Obama says enough of what he calls phony outrage about lipstick and pigs and too little real outrage about the economy, even as the McCain forces take new umbrage alleging another smear attempt against Sarah Palin.

    CNN Transcript Sep 10, 2008

  • McCain forces said that -- excuse me Senator Obama fired back, basically, at the McCain campaign today sharply what he called phony outrage.

    CNN Transcript Sep 10, 2008

  • Mr. Cox's criticisms of the agency came as investigators searching the offices of Mr. Madoff's firm in New York City discovered what they described as phony sets of records used to cover up its alleged $50 billion fraud, even as it became clear that Mr. Madoff was trying to attract new investors as recently as early December.

    SEC to Probe Its Ties to Madoffs

  • Coming up, did Rush Limbaugh really insult what he called phony soldiers, or is this a fake controversy whipped up by his critics?

    CNN Transcript Oct 7, 2007

  • I spoke with Senator Kerry just a little while ago and I started by asking for his reaction to Bush advisers who say they are already doing much of what Kerry advocates and that his criticism amounts to what they call phony politics.

    Hullabaloo

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