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[foh-nee] /ˈfoʊ ni/
adjective, phonier, phoniest.
not real or genuine; fake; counterfeit:
a phony diamond.
false or deceiving; not truthful; concocted:
a phony explanation.
insincere or deceitful; affected or pretentious:
a phony sales representative.
noun, plural phonies.
something that is phony; a counterfeit or fake.
an insincere, pretentious, or deceitful person:
He thought my friends were a bunch of phonies.
verb (used with object), phonied, phonying.
to falsify; counterfeit; fabricate (often followed by up):
to phony up a document.
Also, phoney.
1895-1900; perhaps alteration and respelling of fawney (slang) finger ring (< Irish fsptáinne), if taken to mean “false” in the phrase fawney rig a confidence game in which a brass ring is sold as a gold one
Related forms
phonily, adverb
phoniness, noun
4. fraud, imitation, hoax.


a combining form used in the formation of abstract nouns corresponding to nouns ending in -phone:
< Greek -phōnia; see -phone, -y3 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for phony
  • The phony ad describes the sort of stuff you'll find in the fake mag.
  • Along with the diplomas, the company also provided fake transcripts and phony letters of recommendation.
  • When auditors asked to see the file on a phony insurance policy, the company's employees would simply fake it.
  • phony, sleight of hand false equivalency right there.
  • phony checks have been the stock in trade of online fraud artists for years.
  • And it's why he has resorted to posting a couple of phony rebuttals of his own.
  • One theory holds that émigré groups have launched a phony rebellion in an effort to disguise their weakness.
  • And the females laid almost the same amount of eggs fertilized by males bearing real or phony gifts.
  • They also tested three phony blue diamonds-of which none had the telltale red signature.
  • He was the kind of phony that have to give themselves room when they answer somebody's question.
British Dictionary definitions for phony


adjective -nier, -niest
not genuine; fake
(of a person) insincere or pretentious
noun (pl) -neys, -nies
an insincere or pretentious person
something that is not genuine; a fake
Derived Forms
phoneyness, especially (US) phoniness, noun
Word Origin
C20: origin uncertain


adjective, noun -nier, -niest (pl) -nies
a variant spelling (esp US) of phoney
Derived Forms
phoniness, noun


combining form
indicating a specified type of sound: cacophony, euphony
Derived Forms
-phonic, combining_form:in_adjective
Word Origin
from Greek -phōnia, from phōnē sound
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
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Word Origin and History for phony

also phoney, "not genuine," 1899, perhaps an alteration of fawney "gilt brass ring used by swindlers."

His most successful swindle was selling "painted" or "phony" diamonds. He had a plan of taking cheap stones, and by "doctoring" them make them have a brilliant and high class appearance. His confederates would then take the diamonds to other pawnbrokers and dispose of them. ["The Jewelers Review," New York, April 5, 1899]
The noun meaning "phony person or thing" is attested from 1902.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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phony in Medicine

-phony suff.
Sound: microphony.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Slang definitions & phrases for phony



Not real or genuine; false; fake: You phony little fake (1900+)

  1. A fake thing: That window's a phony, it don't open (1902+)
  2. A person who affects some identity, role, nature, etc; poseur: some phony calling himself a writer (1902+)

: I ain't phoneying them woids (1942+)

[fr late 1700s British underworld slang fawney fr Irish fa´inne, ''ring,'' referring to a swindle in which the fawney-dropper drops a cheap ring before the victim, then is persuaded to sell it as if it were valuable; as the sequence of spellings, phoney and later phony, indicates, the US spelling is probably based on an attested folk etymology revealing the notion that one's feelings or even identity could be readily falsified on the telephone]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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