Definition of phony in English:


(also phoney)


  • Not genuine; fraudulent.

    ‘I thought your accent was a bit phony’
    • ‘These offer a phoney impression of simplicity, reducing complex manifesto policies to a few slogans.’
    • ‘Access to the properties is gained by putting a phoney offer down.’
    • ‘You have to show genuine empathy, not phony sympathy.’
    • ‘The report was triggered in part by a $146-million fraud uncovered last year in which the department paid phoney invoices during a 10-year period.’
    • ‘Three illegal aliens are accused of using phony documents to get jobs at a U.S. military base.’
    • ‘He'll continue to have a hard time convincing voters he isn't a dangerous and phoney pretender with no business shooting higher than, say, the Sports Ministry.’
    • ‘Labour has cooked up this phoney row just to manufacture cheap headlines on the eve of a general election.’
    • ‘There is usually a complete lack of ceremony with this type of person as they are not a phony psychic or exorcist.’
    • ‘Who could have failed to see that there were no manufacturer's name or address or ingredients or shelf-life on the packages of the phoney milk powder?’
    • ‘It's too late, of course, and Affleck is forced to maintain his phony identity, fake his way through the casino hit, and hope he makes it alive to final credits.’
    • ‘Sadly, phoney clinics offer spurious tests which will diagnose allergies in virtually anybody.’
    • ‘And how would the time spent by the presenters of ‘happenings’ and other such phony pretences of art be measured?’
    • ‘There was a group that modeled themselves on Wittgenstein, which I thought was quite phony and pretentious.’
    • ‘The 1990s was a decade of fraudulent privatisations, phony education and poverty alleviating campaigns.’
    • ‘Traditional fakes come from a process called offset lithography that produces phony dollars without the ‘raised ink’ feel of genuine bills.’
    • ‘A phony Tiffany brand watch, whose genuine model carries 160,000 yen price tag in Japan, is on sale for 150 yuan.’
    • ‘For as little as $50, Americans desperate for jobs are buying phony degrees with seals from prestigious universities like Columbia.’
    • ‘But isn't there also a growing problem with counterfeit phony drugs, pharmaceuticals, as well?’
    • ‘So what touchstone can we use to distinguish genuine from phoney forwardists?’
    • ‘Perhaps he can find some money to put towards some genuine tax reform by clamping down on these phoney charities.’
    bogus, not genuine, sham, false, fake, fraudulent, forged, feigned, counterfeit, so-called, spurious, pseudo
    imitation, man-made, mock, ersatz, artificial, synthetic, manufactured, simulated, reproduction, replica, facsimile, dummy, model, toy
    make-believe, pretended, contrived, affected, insincere
    pretend, put-on
    View synonyms


  • A fraudulent person or thing.

    • ‘At the conclusion of each episode, the one phony is revealed.’
    • ‘It's true to say that there always have been and always will be phonies and charlatans claiming psychic powers either for profit or for notoriety.’
    • ‘Why are you playing the edges; why bother to debunk, why spend your time exposing people that are outright frauds, phonies, or who are merely self deluded?’
    • ‘To be blunt about it, by any normal standard most of these guys are liars and phonies.’
    • ‘But other merchants recognized the bills as phonies right away.’
    • ‘Here we deal with frauds and phonies, money grabbers and odd-balls.’
    • ‘What they hate is being patronised by phonies.’
    • ‘Like me he understood that the people around him were fakes and phoneys and pretty soon I realised he hated school as much as I did.’
    • ‘But any moment the spell might fail, their eyes would be opened and they would realise I was a fraud, a phoney.’
    • ‘Veterans call them by all sorts of names: phonies, fakes, imposters, wannabes.’
    • ‘So, you may be saying, these ‘rule-breakers,’ with their aura of rebellion, are nothing but phonies!’
    • ‘She was very acute at spotting the fake and the phony.’
    • ‘Salinger has given voice to what every adolescent or at least what every middle class adolescent thinks but is too inhibited to say, which is that success is a sham and that successful people are mostly phonies.’
    • ‘People who have true family values live by them, while deviant phonies incessantly talk about them.’
    • ‘From the photograph down, everything was a fraud and a phoney.’
    • ‘I never feel comfortable at an upscale restaurant, where I often feel like a phony trying to fake clever conversation, social appropriateness, and political correctness.’
    • ‘But this argument is largely a phony because the filibuster rules have been changed by the Democrats in the past.’
    • ‘What a miserable bunch of phoneys they are, both the traitors and their spin doctors.’
    • ‘I'm a fake, a phony, a fraud, an impostor, and a charlatan of the worse degree.’
    • ‘That's the conundrum of the modern skeptics movement: Intelligent Design theorists and deniers of global warming may very well be phonies and scoundrels, but no one is going to debunk them in the classic sense.’
    counterfeit, fake, forgery, sham, hoax, imitation, copy, reproduction, replica, facsimile, dummy, model, toy
    impostor, sham, fake, fraud, mountebank, quack, cheat, swindler, fraudster, confidence trickster, defrauder, hoaxer, bluffer, pretender, masquerader, charlatan, rogue, scoundrel
    View synonyms


Late 19th century: of unknown origin.