from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun Something false or empty that is purported to be genuine.
  • noun Deceitfulness or pretense.
  • noun One who claims to be what he or she is not; an impostor or fraud.
  • noun A decorative cover made to simulate an article of household linen and used over or in place of it.
  • adjective Not genuine; fake.
  • intransitive verb To put on the false appearance of; feign.
  • intransitive verb To assume a false appearance or character; dissemble.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To deceive; trick; cheat; delude with false pretenses.
  • To obtrude by fraud or imposition.
  • To make a pretense of in order to deceive; feign; imitate: as, to sham illness.
  • To pretend; make false pretenses; pretend to be, do, etc., what one is not, does not, does not mean, etc.
  • noun Shame; disgrace; fault.
  • noun A trick put upon one; a trick or device that deludes or disappoints expectation; fraud; imposture; make-believe; humbug: as, an age of shams.
  • noun Some device meant to give a thing a different outward appearance, as of neatness and finish, or to imitate something which it is not. Specifically
  • noun A false pillow-cover; a pillow-sham.
  • noun A strip of fine linen, often embroidered, put under the upper edge of the bed-coverings and turned over, as if forming the upper end of the sheet.
  • noun plural Gaiters.
  • False; counterfeit; pretended: as, a sham fight.
  • Synonyms Mock, spurious, make-believe.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective False; counterfeit; pretended; feigned; unreal.
  • noun That which deceives expectation; any trick, fraud, or device that deludes and disappoints; a make-believe; delusion; imposture; humbug.
  • noun A false front, or removable ornamental covering.
  • noun a covering to be laid on a pillow.
  • intransitive verb To make false pretenses; to deceive; to feign; to impose.
  • transitive verb To trick; to cheat; to deceive or delude with false pretenses.
  • transitive verb rare To obtrude by fraud or imposition.
  • transitive verb To assume the manner and character of; to imitate; to ape; to feign.
  • transitive verb to feign sickness; to malinger. Hence a malingerer is called, in sailors' cant, Sham Abram, or Sham Abraham.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective Intended to deceive; false.
  • noun A fake; an imitation that purports to be genuine.
  • noun Trickery, hoaxing.
  • noun A decorative cover for a pillow.
  • verb To deceive, cheat, lie.

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

  • verb make believe with the intent to deceive
  • adjective adopted in order to deceive
  • verb make a pretence of
  • noun a person who makes deceitful pretenses
  • noun something that is a counterfeit; not what it seems to be


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

[Perhaps dialectal variant of shame.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Probably a dialectal form of shame.


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  • Instead of this, we either put on a stock with a sham tie, (now all _sham_ things, of what kind soever, militate against good taste,) or else, to make the most of our scarf, we fill up the aperture of the waistcoat with an ambitious quantity of drapery, and we stick therein an enormous and obtrusively ostentatious pin.

    Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 57, No. 357, June, 1845

  • The term sham derives from the root shameful I believe.

    Matthew Anderson: Lower Case Capitalism

  • Also on Sunday, the Taliban vowed to attack polling places in Sept. 18 parliamentary elections, warning Afghans not to participate in what it called a sham vote.

    Kabul Bank Crisis

  • "I care deeply about the people of Zimbabwe, I am extremely disappointed in the election, which I labelled a sham election," Bush said with Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete, the current chairman of the AU.

    ANC Daily News Briefing

  • "I care deeply about the people of Zimbabwe, I am extremely disappointed in the election, which I labelled a sham election," Bush said on the sidelines of a summit of rich nations at this mountain resort in northern Japan.

    ANC Daily News Briefing

  • "I'm extremely disappointed in the elections, which I labelled a sham election," he said.

    Archive 2008-07-01

  • Additional comments in the P-I story reveal what a sham is the rubric of "diversity" at UW and in Seattle.

    Sound Politics: Censorship Encouraged At UW

  • PHILLIPS: Saddam Hussein, angry over what he calls a sham of a trial, boycotts today's proceedings in Baghdad.

    CNN Transcript Dec 7, 2005

  • Kaunda said he would organize a campaign of strikes, demonstrations and civil disobedience against what he termed sham elections that would lack legitimacy without his main opposition group taking part.

    ANC Daily News Briefing

  • Associated Press Writers = KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - The Taliban vowed Sunday to attack polling places in Sept. 18 parliamentary elections, warning Afghans not to participate in what it called a sham vote.

    The Guardian World News


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  • "This comfortable quilt cover set is made of 100% luxurious cotton with 200 thread count, pillow shams are nicely flanged around and quilt cover is finished with a hidden zip closure. Create a refreshing and beautiful bedroom with this queen size quilt cover set includes 1 x quilt cover and 2 x pillow shams."

    - advertisement,, 8 August 2008.

    August 8, 2008

  • She wears the clothes of an emperor

    But her paintings are a sham

    And they're going for a grand

    When the dealers come to view

    Do they ever see the real you?

    (It could have been a brilliant career, by Belle and Sebastian

    September 16, 2008

  • ...I shammed illness, complained of my head, complained of my chest, and made a characteristic wry face for every pain and ache in the catalogue of human infirmities.

    - Lesage, The Adventures of Gil Blas of Santillane, tr. Smollett, bk 10 ch. 12

    October 10, 2008

  • Many a times, it is sham trials that put innocents to death.

    September 27, 2013