a. Something false or empty that is purported to be genuine: “Because she had been so readily unfaithful, her marriage was a sham” (Alice Munro).
b. Deceitfulness or pretense: “She saw herself as a person surrounded by, living by, sham” (Alice Munro).
c. A person who claims to be what that person is not; an impostor or fraud: “He a man! Hell! He was a hollow sham!” (Joseph Conrad).
2. A decorative cover for a pillow.
Not genuine; fake: sham diamonds; sham modesty.
v. shammed, sham·ming, shams
To put on the false appearance of; feign: “shamming insanity to get his tormentors to leave him alone” (John Wain).
To assume a false appearance or character; dissemble.
[Perhaps dialectal variant of SHAME.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.