1. something that is not what it purports to be; a spurious imitation; fraud or hoax.
  2. a person who shams; shammer.
  3. a cover or the like for giving a thing a different outward appearance: a pillow sham.


  1. pretended; counterfeit; feigned: sham attacks; a sham Gothic façade.
  2. designed, made, or used as a sham.

verb (used with object), shammed, sham·ming.

  1. to produce an imitation of.
  2. to assume the appearance of; pretend to have: to sham illness.

verb (used without object), shammed, sham·ming.

  1. to make a false show of something; pretend.


  1. anything that is not what it purports or appears to be
  2. something false, fake, or fictitious that purports to be genuine
  3. a person who pretends to be something other than he is


  1. counterfeit or false; simulated

verb shams, shamming or shammed

  1. to falsely assume the appearance of (something); counterfeitto sham illness

n.1670s, “a trick, a hoax, a fraud,” also as a verb and an adjective, of uncertain origin; the words burst into use in 1677. Perhaps from sham, a northern dialectal variant of shame (n.); a derivation OED finds “not impossible.” Sense of “something meant to be mistaken for something else” is from 1728. The meaning “false front” in pillow-sham (1721) is from the notion of “counterfeit.” Related: Shammed; shamming; shammer. Shamateur “amateur sportsman who acts like a professional” is from 1896.

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