Definition of sham in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /SHam/


1A thing that is not what it is purported to be: the proposed legislation is a farce and a sham
More example sentences
  • Are we not offering our children enough opportunities to learn the true nature of the boring, disappointing sham we call real life?
  • If the new security focus is a sham, expect to see more official denial.
  • He understands only too well that nature is a sham and can be twisted every which way by the forces of evil.
1.1Pretense: it all turned out to be sham and hypocrisy
More example sentences
  • Rather we read Mark because he is an expert at exposing sham, pretension, and hypocrisy, and because he was the greatest American humorist of the 19th century.
  • Second, Barnes agreed with South Carolina editor Z. T. Cody who ‘called the whole signing up business sham and hypocrisy.’
  • As a satirist, the writer is unafraid of drawing aside the drapes of hypocrisy and sham that seem to safeguard middle-class ethics.
pretense, fake, act, fiction, simulation, fraud, feint, lie, counterfeit;
1.2A person who pretends to be someone or something they are not: he was a sham, totally unqualified for his job as a senior doctor
More example sentences
  • The team does not feel the average person today is as ignorant toward shams and charlatans as they might have been just ten years ago.
  • He is a great, flabby sham, an actor close to suicide, maybe - and this is an extraordinary display of incipient madness or incorrigible playfulness.
  • Yet Pétain was no such thing; he was a lifelong soldier and a genuine war hero, rather than some preening sham in jackboots.
charlatan, fake, fraud, impostor, pretender;
quack, mountebank
informal phony
2North American short for pillow sham.
Example sentences
  • For, one needs, in addition, the matching comforter, bedskirt, duvet, three types of pillows, shams, draperies, upholstered furniture, tablecloths, fabric lampshades, and rugs.
  • Also available are shams, duvet covers, bed skirts and light quilts so you can create exactly the look you want.
  • More tailored bedding styles that downplay decorative pillows and shams are making the once humble sheet more visible than ever.


Bogus; false: a clergyman who arranged a sham marriage
More example sentences
  • Clearly, a sham intent, a false intent, will give the matter away.
  • Can two suicidal Turkish Germans living in Hamburg find happiness together, or at least a reason to live, by entering into a sham marriage so she can sleep around?
  • Rather a spectacle for a sham marriage isn't it?
fake, pretended, feigned, simulated, false, artificial, bogus, insincere, contrived, affected, make-believe, fictitious;
imitation, mock, counterfeit, fraudulent
informal pretend, put-on, phony, pseudo

verb (shams, shamming, shammed)

[no object]
1Falsely present something as the truth: was he ill or was he shamming?
More example sentences
  • There is an important distinction to be made between those who are genuinely dull and those who are shamming.
  • ‘‘Do you think,’ I asked indignantly, ‘he is shamming?’
  • If she is shamming, her body shape will give her plenty of time to either really get pregnant or to claim that she has suffered a miscarriage - probably in response to some claimed misdeed of Peter's.
1.1 [with object] Pretend to be or to be experiencing: she shams indifference
More example sentences
  • It planned for a mock battle, shammed unity, and were confused by the intransigence and solidarity of the other side.
  • He portrays him as shamming his injuries.
  • In his secret note of December 19, 1913, he noted that Savarkar was shamming his ‘change of heart’ and that he did not express the slightest remorse or regret for what he had done.



Pronunciation: /ˈSHamər/
Example sentences
  • This group of shammers must of necessity concede defeat in the face of an exact and ontologically authoritative ‘idiocy’.
  • No unexpressed intentions of a ‘shammer’ affect the rights of a party whom he deceived.


Late 17th century: perhaps a northern English dialect variant of the noun shame.

Words that rhyme with sham

am, Amsterdam, Assam, Bram, cam, cham, cheongsam, clam, cram, dam, damn, drachm, dram, exam, femme, flam, gam, glam, gram, ham, jam, jamb, lam, lamb, mam, mesdames, Omar Khayyám, Pam, pram, pro-am, ram, Sam, scam, scram, Siam, slam, Spam, swam, tam, tram, Vietnam, wham, yam

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: sham

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.