A sham is a fake. If you frequently order products advertised on late-night, hour-long television commercials, you’ve probably ended up with at least one item that was a sham. All-purpose, industrial strength stain remover, anyone?

Sham can be used to refer to people as well as to things. Remember that doctor from the late-night TV commercial advertising UltraMiracleCure vitamin pills? He’s probably a sham, or a quack. Some sources claim that the word sham originated in the 17th century and was derived from the English word shame, but who knows? Maybe that theory’s a sham too.

Definitions of sham

n something that is a counterfeit; not what it seems to be

fake, postiche
fake book
a fake in the form of an imitation book; used to fill bookcases of people who wish to appear scholarly
Potemkin village
something that seems impressive but in fact lacks substance
Type of:
something copied or derived from an original

n a person who makes deceitful pretenses

fake, faker, fraud, imposter, impostor, pretender, pseud, pseudo, role player, shammer
name dropper
someone who pretends that famous people are his/her friends
a contestant entered in a competition under false pretenses
Type of:
beguiler, cheat, cheater, deceiver, slicker, trickster
someone who leads you to believe something that is not true

adj adopted in order to deceive

sham modesty”
assumed, false, fictitious, fictive, pretended, put on
counterfeit, imitative
not genuine; imitating something superior

v make believe with the intent to deceive

“He shammed a headache”
affect, dissemble, feign, pretend
make, make believe, pretend
represent fictitiously, as in a play, or pretend to be or act like
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play possum
to pretend to be dead
take a dive
pretend to be knocked out, as of a boxer
bull, fake, talk through one's hat
speak insincerely or without regard for facts or truths
articulate silently; form words with the lips only
lip-sync, lip-synch
move the lips in synchronization (with recorded speech or song)
Type of:
belie, misrepresent
represent falsely

v make a pretense of

assume, feign, simulate
pretend to be somebody in the framework of a game or playful activity
deceive by a mock action
Type of:
act, dissemble, pretend
behave unnaturally or affectedly

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