adjective, fals·er, fals·est.

  1. not true or correct; erroneous: a false statement.
  2. uttering or declaring what is untrue: a false witness.
  3. not faithful or loyal; treacherous: a false friend.
  4. tending to deceive or mislead; deceptive: a false impression.
  5. not genuine; counterfeit.
  6. based on mistaken, erroneous, or inconsistent impressions, ideas, or facts: false pride.
  7. used as a substitute or supplement, especially temporarily: false supports for a bridge.
  8. Biology. having a superficial resemblance to something that properly bears the name: the false acacia.
  9. not properly, accurately, or honestly made, done, or adjusted: a false balance.
  10. inaccurate in pitch, as a musical note.


  1. dishonestly; faithlessly; treacherously: Did he speak false against me?

  1. play someone false, to betray someone; be treacherous or faithless.


  1. not in accordance with the truth or facts
  2. irregular or invalida false start
  3. untruthful or lyinga false account
  4. not genuine, real, or natural; artificial; fakefalse eyelashes
  5. being or intended to be misleading or deceptivea false rumour
  6. disloyal or treacherousa false friend
  7. based on mistaken or irrelevant ideas or factsfalse pride; a false argument
  8. (prenominal) (esp of plants) superficially resembling the species specifiedfalse hellebore
  9. serving to supplement or replace, often temporarilya false keel
  10. music
    1. (of a note, interval, etc) out of tune
    2. (of the interval of a perfect fourth or fifth) decreased by a semitone
    3. (of a cadence) interrupted or imperfect


  1. in a false or dishonest manner (esp in the phrase play (someone) false)

c.1300, from false + -ness.


late 12c., from Old French fals, faus (12c., Modern French faux) “false, fake, incorrect, mistaken, treacherous, deceitful,” from Latin falsus “deceived, erroneous, mistaken,” past participle of fallere “deceive, disappoint,” of uncertain origin (see fail).

Adopted into other Germanic languages (cf. German falsch, Dutch valsch, Danish falsk), though English is the only one in which the active sense of “deceitful” (a secondary sense in Latin) has predominated. False alarm recorded from 1570s. Related: Falsely; falseness.

In addition to the idioms beginning with false

  • false alarm
  • false colors
  • false start
  • false step

also see:

  • lull into (false sense of security)
  • play false
  • ring false

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