Both to feign and to feint seem to mean to pretend. Are they synonyms or the same word with only a different spelling?

Or is there an actual concrete difference in their meaning?

  • Is "feign," perhaps, more passive than "feint"? To me "feign" seems more a pretence, a matter of declared intention, while "feint" intends to deceive or mislead by an agressive action.
    – user24715
    Aug 10, 2012 at 4:48

2 Answers 2


A feint (noun) is primarily a deceptive move, such as in fencing or military maneuvering. It can also mean presenting a feigned appearance. Feint can also be a verb, but in that case it simply means to execute a feint.

To feign (verb) is to deceive; either by acting as if you're something or someone you're not, or lying.

There is some overlap between particular meanings of the two words (For example, his ignorance was a feint, he was feigning ignorance), but mostly they are separate.

Both words come from the French feindre, which means to "pretend, represent, imitate, shirk".

Source: Dictionary.com on feint, feign; Online Etymology Dictionary on feint

  • But are they cognate? (do they have similar etymology?)
    – Mitch
    Apr 12, 2012 at 23:23
  • 1
    @Mitch but will they blend? Seriously though, apparently the both come from the French word feindre, which means "pretend, represent, imitate, shirk". Going to update the answer with this.
    – kotekzot
    Apr 12, 2012 at 23:29

A feint is the result of feigning, just as a gift is the result of giving. Feigning an attack (originally in fencing, but extended to other military contexts, and then generally) took on a life of its own, so that a single word was needed; feint as a verb seems (seemed?) the obvious choice.

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