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false, adj., adv., and n.

Pronunciation:  /fɔːls/ /fɒls/
Forms:  OE–16 fals, (ME Orm. falls, ME falsse, ME vals(e), ME–16 falce, (ME fauce, 15 falls, faulse, fawse), 17–18 Sc. fause, 16, 18 dial. fause, -sse, ME– false.(Show Less)
Etymology:  late Old English fals   adjective and noun, < Latin falsus   false (neuter falsum  , used subst. in sense fraud, falsehood), originally past participle of fallĕre   to deceive; compare Old Norse fals   noun. The adjective is found in Old English only in one doubtful instance (see sense A. 13); its frequent use begins in the 12th cent., and was probably due to a fresh adoption through the Old French fals, faus (modern French faux = Provencal fals, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian falso). The continental Germanic languages adopted the word in an altered form: Middle High German valsch, modern German falsch (compare Old High German gifalscôn to falsify), Old Frisian falsch, Dutch valsch, late Icelandic (15th cent.) falskr, Danish, Swedish falsk.

The etymological sense of Latin falsus is ‘deceived, mistaken’ (of persons), ‘erroneous’ (of opinions, etc.). The transition to the active sense ‘deceitful’ is shown in phrases like falsa fides ‘breach of trust, faithlessness’, where the noun has a subjective and an objective sense. In modern English the sense ‘mendacious’ is so prominent that the word must often be avoided as discourteous in contexts where the etymological equivalent in other Germanic languages or in Romanic would be quite unobjectionable. Some of the uses are adopted < French, and represent senses that never became English.

 A. adj.
 I. Erroneous, wrong.

 a. Of opinions, propositions, doctrines, representations: Contrary to what is true, erroneous.

?c1200   Ormulum (Burchfield transcript) l. 10024   To trowwenn wrang o godd Þurrh þeȝȝre fallse lare.
a1225   Juliana 65   Forlore beo þu reue wið false bileaue.
c1380   Wyclif Sel. Wks. III. 250   Falce undirstondinge of þe lawe of Crist.
c1384   Chaucer Hous of Fame iii. 982   Were the tydynge sothe or fals.
c1400   Lanfranc's Cirurg. 267   Summen seien þat a womman mai be cured for to kutte off al þe brest & þat is al fals.
1484   Caxton tr. G. de la Tour-Landry Bk. Knight of Tower (1971) lv. 80   Of whiche two sones cam first the paynyms, and the fals lawe.
1551   T. Wilson Rule of Reason sig. Biijv,   To knitte true argumentes, and vnknit false.
a1568   R. Ascham Scholemaster (1570) i. f. 27v,   Corrupt maners in liuinge, breede false iudgement in doctrine.
1599   J. Davies Nosce Teipsum 97   How can that be false, which euery tong..affirmes for true?
1631–2   High Commission Cases (Camden) 228   This man is to be for his false doctrines..sharply censured.
1652   N. Culpeper Eng. Physitian Enlarged 107   [He] affirms that eating nuts causeth shortness of breath, than which nothing is falser.
1670   J. Narborough Jrnl. in Acct. Several Late Voy. (1711) i. 83   The Draughts are false..for they do not make any mention of the several Islands.
1695   Dryden in tr. C. A. Du Fresnoy De Arte Graphica Pref. p. xxvi,   The Persons, and Action of a Farce are all unnatural, and the Manners false.
1725   I. Watts Logick i. iii. §4. 66   When I see a strait staff appear crooked while it is half under the Water, I say, the Water gives me a false Idea of it.
a1797   W. Mason Hymn in Wks. (1811) I. 467   Impious men, despise the sage decree, From vain deceit, and false philosophy.
1831   D. Brewster Life I. Newton xvi. 294   False systems of religion have..been deduced from the sacred record.
1849   T. B. Macaulay Hist. Eng. I. 279   It may perhaps correct some false notions.

?c1200—1849(Hide quotations)


 b. Law. Of a judgement or verdict.

1634   R. Sanderson Serm. II. 293   In the courts of law..false verdicts, false judgments.
1768   W. Blackstone Comm. Laws Eng. III. 34   A writ also of false judgment lies to the courts at Westminster to rehear and review the cause.
1768   W. Blackstone Comm. Laws Eng. III. 402   A jury of twelve men gave a false verdict.

1634—1768(Hide quotations)


 c.   false position n. Arith. the rule also called simply position (position n. 2).

 2. Not according to correct rule or principle; wrong.

 a. Grammar. Now somewhat arch. exc. in false concord, a breach of any of the rules for the ‘agreement’ of words in a sentence; false quantity, an incorrect use of a long for a short vowel or syllable, or vice versa.

1551   T. Wilson Rule of Reason sig. Biij,   A Grammarian is better liked, that speketh true and good Latine, then he is that speaketh false.
1574   J. Baret Aluearie F 101   False verses. Carmina vitiosa.
1588   ‘M. Marprelate’ Oh read ouer D. Iohn Bridges: Epist. 41,   I write false Englishe in this sentence.
1654   R. Whitlock Ζωοτομία 450   In the Peoples Construing Booke, the Acts of those above them have alwayes some false Latine in them.
1710   E. Gibson Let. in 4 Mar. H. Ellis Orig. Lett. Eminent Literary Men (1843) 237   To..correct the false spellings, &c.
1711   J. Addison Spectator No. 59. ¶3   This Poet avoiding..a false Quantity.
1837   J. G. Lockhart Mem. Life Scott lx,   A false quantity which his [Scott's] generosity may almost be said to have made classical.
1859   Thackeray Virginians v,   George knew much more Latin..than his master, and caught him in perpetual..false quantities.
1872   F. Hall (title)    Recent Exemplifications of False Philology.

1551—1872(Hide quotations)


 b. Music. Of a note: Not in tune, wrong in pitch, also fig. Also, false cadence (see quot. 18881). false fourth, false fifth, etc.: a fourth, fifth, etc. when not perfect. false intonation:  (a) the production of an unnatural or improper quality of tone;  (b) singing or playing out of tune. false relation: the separation of a chromatic semitone between two parts. Also, see quot. 1869. false string: a badly woven string, which produces an uncertain and untrue tone.

1597   T. Morley Plaine & Easie Introd. Musicke 72   Shew me..which be the true notes, and which false.
1599   J. Davies Nosce Teipsum 91   If false accords from her false strings be sent.
1626   Bacon Sylua Syluarum §171   A Lute-String, if it be..Unequall in his Parts..we call False.
1655   Campion's Art composing Musick in Parts in J. Playford Introd. Skill Musick ii. 38   The fift example yields a false fourth, and the sixt a false fift.
1817   Byron Beppo xxxii,   Some false note's detected flaw.
1830   Tennyson Poems 102   If ye sing not, if ye make false measure, We shall lose eternal pleasure.
1869   F. A. G. Ouseley Counterpoint ii. 9   By a false relation is meant the simultaneous, or immediately successive, sounding of a note of the same name, but accidentally altered pitch.
1876   Academy 9 Sept. 253/1   The minutest..examination [of an actress's part] will hardly discover a false note or a dropped stitch.
1888   J. Stainer Stainer & Barrett's Dict. Musical Terms (rev. ed.) 66   When the last chord of the phrase is other than the tonic chord and is preceded by that of the dominant, the cadence is said to be interrupted, false or deceptive.
1888   J. Stainer Stainer & Barrett's Dict. Musical Terms (rev. ed.) 164   False or feigned music was that in which notes were altered by the use of accidentals.
1917   T. S. Eliot Prufrock 19   Inside my brain a dull tom-tom begins... That is at least one definite ‘false note’.
1932   Week-end Rev. 13 Aug. 188/2   This episode, with its rather sentimental sequel, seems to strike a false note in the story.

1597—1932(Hide quotations)


 c. Drawing.

1715   J. Richardson Ess. Theory of Painting 134   If the Perspective is not just the Drawing of that Composition is false.

1715—1715(Hide quotations)


 d.   false imprisonment n. Law the trespass committed against a person by imprisoning him contrary to law, or by any restrictive action or influence.

1387–8   Petition London Mercers in R. W. Chambers & M. Daunt Bk. London Eng. (1931) 34   The forsaid Nichol..destruyd the kynges trewe lyges..bi false emprisonementȝ.
1768   W. Blackstone Comm. Laws Eng. III. viii. 127   To constitute the injury of false imprisonment there are two points requisite; 1. The detention of the person; and, 2. The unlawfulness of such detention.
1880   T. E. Holland Jurisprudence xi. 111   A man has a right to go where he pleases,..and anyone who prevents him from so doing, whether by constraint actually applied, or by such show of authority or force as has an effect on the will equivalent to actual constraint, is said in English law to be guilty of ‘false imprisonment’.
1891   Law Times' Rep. 63 690/2   An action to recover damages for false imprisonment.

1387-8—1891(Hide quotations)


 e. Heraldry. (See quots.)

1730   N. Bailey et al. Dict. Britannicum,   False Arms, (in Heraldry) are those wherein the fundamental rules of the art are not observed.
1864   C. Boutell Heraldry Hist. & Pop. xii. 81   An Orle is blazoned as a ‘false escutcheon’, by the early Heralds.
1889   C. N. Elvin Dict. Heraldry,   An Annulet [is blazoned] as a False Roundel. A Cross voided, as a False Cross.

1730—1889(Hide quotations)


 f. Of a horse: (see quot.). false gallop: see gallop n. 3a.

1833   Regulations Instr. Cavalry i. ii. 56   In cantering to the right, a horse leading with the two near legs is ‘false’.
1884   E. L. Anderson Mod. Horsemanship vi. 27   If it [the horse] turn to the right when the left legs are taking the advanced steps, it is false in its gallop.

1833—1884(Hide quotations)


 g. Of a card: (see quot. 1879).

1879   ‘Cavendish’ Card Ess. 163   A card [played] contrary to rule in order to take in the adversary..is technically called a false card.

1879—1879(Hide quotations)


 h.   false point n.  [point n.1 32a] a mistaken act of pointing by a game-dog. Hence false-pointing n., false-point vb.

1954   D. A. Bannerman Birds Brit. Isles III. 214   Ring-ouzels..possess an exceptionally strong scent. They are a frequent cause of ‘false point’ in gun-dogs..a Border terrier often winding the sitting bird at a greater distance than he would a snipe or woodcock.
1960   Times 24 Sept. 9/1   On scenting game they [sc. setters] halt..close enough..to avoid ‘false-pointing’.
1965   P. Wayre Wind in Reeds iii. 38   The best of dogs can false-point.

1954—1965(Hide quotations)


 3. Of a balance, measure: Not truly adjusted, incorrect. Also, Of play: Unfair. Of dice: Loaded so as to fall unfairly. false point n. a stroke of deceit; a trick.

c1340   Cursor M. (Fairf.) 27274   Fals weȝt & mette againe þe lagh in lande is sette.
c1480   J. Watton Speculum Christiani 30 b,   Usyng of fals weghts or mesuring.
?1528   J. Skelton Dyuers Balettys & Dyties xviii,   Ware yet..of fortunes dowble cast. For one fals poynt she is wont to kepe in store.
1551   T. Wilson Rule of Reason sig. Biij,   Those whiche play with false dice, and would make other beleue that they are true.
1611   Bible (A.V.) Prov. xx. 23   A false ballance is not good.
a1631   J. Donne Poems (1633) 62   Men..Who know false play, rather then lose, deceive.
1634   R. Sanderson Serm. II. 293   False weights, false measures, false thumbs..in the markets and shops.
1782   W. Cowper Conversation in Poems 213   If it weigh th' importance of a fly, The scales are false.
1812   Sporting Mag. 39 91   Causing two grooms to lose 15l. by false play.
1818   Byron Childe Harold: Canto IV iv. xciii. 49   All things weigh'd in custom's falsest scale.

c1340—1818(Hide quotations)


 4. Of shame, pride: Arising from mistaken notions.

1791   A. Radcliffe Romance of Forest I. i. 5   A false pride had still operated against his interest.
1801   M. Edgeworth Forester in Moral Tales I. 75   True and false shame.

1791—1801(Hide quotations)


 5.   false position n.  [French fausse position] a position which compels a person to act or appear in a manner inconsistent with his real character or aims.

1830   Q. Rev. Jan. 120   It [taking tithes in kind] places them [the clergy] in what the politicians call ‘a false position’, with respect to the community at large.

1830—1830(Hide quotations)


 a. (to make) a false step (= French faux pas): a misplaced step, a stumble; hence fig. an unwise or improper action; formerly spec. a woman's lapse from virtue.

1700   S. L. tr. C. Frick Relation Voy. in tr. C. Frick & C. Schweitzer Relation Two Voy. E.-Indies 207,   I..unfortunately made a false step, and tumbled down again into the Boat.
1711   Pope Ess. Crit. 35   False Steps but help them to renew the Race.
1756   T. Nugent Grand Tour I. 114   Such young women as have made a false step.
1823   F. Clissold Narr. Ascent Mont Blanc 20   A false step might have swept us below into an immense crevasse.
1875   B. Jowett tr. Plato Dialogues (ed. 2) III. 231   If he has taken a false step he must be able to retrieve himself.

1700—1875(Hide quotations)


 b.   false start n. a wrong start in a race; often transf. and fig.

1815   Racing Cal. 102   Industry..was distanced by having been pulled up soon after starting, in consequence of a repeated cry of ‘false start’.
1850   F. E. Smedley Frank Fairlegh xxxi. 260   Pilkington..was partly coaxed, partly coerced into attempting the only song he knew,..in which performance, after making four false starts,..he contrived..to get as far as the words [etc.].
1854   J. R. Planché Camp at Olympic 13   Because I fling your follies in your face, And call back all the false starts of your race.
1957   G. Ryle in M. Black Importance of Lang. (1962) 149   It was a tragically false start.

1815—1957(Hide quotations)

 7. Defective, not firm or solid.

 a.   false quarter n.  [= French faux quartier] Farriery (see quots.).

1523   J. Skelton Goodly Garlande of Laurell 504   Some lokyd full smothely and had a fals quarter.
1614   G. Markham Cheape & Good Husbandry (1668) i. lv. 64   Infirmities of hoofs, as false quarters, loose hoofs.
1706   Phillips's New World of Words (ed. 6) ,   False Quarter is a Rift..seeming like a piece put in, and not all entire.
1879   J. Law Farmer's Vet. Adviser 379   False quarter..is similar to a sand-crack in appearance but caused by..destruction of the secreting structure at the top of the hoof.

1523—1879(Hide quotations)


 b. Archit.

1728   R. Morris Ess. Anc. Archit. 87   What a false Bearing, or rather what Bearing at all has it?
1842   J. Gwilt Encycl. Archit. Gloss. 933 at Bearing Wall,   When [the partition is] built in a transverse direction, or, unsupported throughout, its whole length is said to have a false bearing, or as many false bearings as there are intervals below the wall or partition.

1728—1842(Hide quotations)

 II. Mendacious, deceitful, treacherous.In senses A. 8   A. 10   the phr. false as hell was formerly common.

 a. Of a statement: Purposely untrue; mendacious. Frequently in to bear (speak) false witness : to testify falsely.

c1175   Lamb. Hom. 13   Ne spec þu aȝein þine nexta nane false witnesse.
c1290   S. Eng. Leg. I. 40/223   Betere is trewe dede þane fals word.
c1374   Chaucer Troilus & Criseyde i. 593,   I have..for trew or fals report..ilovede the al my lyve.
1377   Langland Piers Plowman B. ii. 80   To bakbite, and to bosten, and bere fals witnesse.
a1400  (1325)    Cursor Mundi (Vesp.) l. 26234   Fals wijtnes and trouth breking.
a1400  (▸a1325)    Cursor Mundi (Trin. Cambr.) l. 4635   He was prisounde wiþ fals reede.
a1556   N. Udall Ralph Roister Doister (?1566) v. i. sig. H.ij,   See that no false surmises thou me tell.
1611   Bible (A.V.) 2 Kings ix. 12   And they said, It is false.
1637   T. Jackson Treat. Signs Times 66 in Diverse Serm.,   False witnesse-bearing, and coveting their neighbours goods are farre more rife amongst us then they were.
1639   T. Fuller Hist. Holy Warre iv. vi. 177   Afterwards this report was controlled to be false.
1678   Earl of Arran in O. Airy Lauderdale Papers (1885) III. lxv. 100   He found all to be false as hell.
1813   Ld. Ellenborough in Ho. Lords 22 Mar.,   The accusation is as false as hell in every part!
1818   Scott Heart of Mid-Lothian xi, in Tales of my Landlord 2nd Ser. II. 269   She came to bear false witness in her sister's cause.
1833   C. F. Cruse tr. Eusebius Eccl. Hist. i. vii. 32   Neither of the gospels has made a false statement.

c1175—1833(Hide quotations)


 b.   false pretences n. (also false representations) Law misrepresentations made to convey a false impression.

1757   Act 30 Geo. II c. 24 §1   All persons who knowingly and designedly, by false pretence or pretences, shall obtain..money, goods, wares or merchandizes, with intent to..defraud any person..of the same.
1778   P. Thicknesse Year's Journey France & Spain (ed. 2) I. iii. 32   He may indeed say..that obtaining money by false pretences is better than forging.
1831   J. Banim Smuggler I. xi. 253   Made prisoners in it, upon false pretences.
1836   Mag. Dom. Econ. I. 92   Indictable for obtaining money under false pretences.
1858   J. A. Froude Hist. Eng. (ed. 2) III. xvii. 506   False representations had been held out to bring the lady into the realm.
1861   Act 24 & 25 Vict. c. 96 §88   It shall be sufficient in any Indictment for obtaining or attempting to obtain any such Property by false Pretences to allege that the Party accused did the Act with Intent to defraud, without alleging an Intent to defraud any particular Person.
1907   Daily Chron. 28 Aug.,   When charged he pleaded guilty to three charges of obtaining goods on false pretences.
1959   Earl Jowitt & C. Walsh Dict. Eng. Law I. 781/2   It is now practically immaterial whether a prisoner is indicted for false pretences or for larceny.

1757—1959(Hide quotations)


 c.   false issue n. Law an issue introduced by counsel in order to conceal the real issue.

1903   Westm. Gaz. 12 June 10/1   Mr. Robson: Then your lordship does not specify any false issues that you say I raised? His Lordship: The false issue you raised was whether or not the uncle was justified in going to the detective to find out the wife's residence instead of going to the father, and there were hours in the Divorce Court occupied upon that point.

1903—1903(Hide quotations)


 9. Of a person or his speech: Uttering or expressing what is untrue; mendacious. (In false prophet the sense varies between this and A. 13b).

?c1225  (▸?a1200)    Ancrene Riwle (Cleo. C.vi) (1972) 56   Þet þe witnesse ne pruuie ham for ualse.
c1325   Metr. Hom. 99   Thai..said that Crist was fals prophete.
1340   R. Rolle Pricke of Conscience 3366   Sacrilege, and fals wittenessyng.
c1380   Wyclif Wks. (1880) 284   Falce gloseris maken goddis lawe derk.
1382   Bible (Wycliffite, E.V.) Mark xiii. 22   Fals Cristis and fals prophetis schulen ryse vp.
1545   G. Joye Expos. Daniel (iii.) f. 32,   Dauid..abhorreth soche false accusers.
1560   Bible (Geneva) Mal. iii. 5,   I will be a swift witnes agaynst false swearers.
a1616   Shakespeare Winter's Tale (1623) iii. ii. 30   Innocence shall make False Accusation blush.
1662   E. Stillingfleet Origines Sacræ ii. v. §5   There may be false Prophets as well as true.
1693   W. Congreve Old Batchelour iv. ii. 34   My Face is a False-Witness, and deserves to be pillory'd.
1822   T. De Quincey Confessions Eng. Opium-eater 115   Oh! just..and mighty opium! that summonest to the chancery of dreams, for the triumphs of suffering innocence, false witnesses.

?c1225—1822(Hide quotations)


 a. Of persons, their attributes or actions: Deceitful, treacherous, faithless. Formerly often pleonastically, expressing detestation, with ns. like traitor, treason (now only arch.). Const. †of, to, †unto.

?c1225  (▸?a1200)    Ancrene Riwle (Cleo. C.vi) (1972) 103   Ach fox is beast falsest.
c1230   Hali Meid. 15   Þah þi fleschliche wil fals beo.
c1275  (▸?a1200)    Laȝamon Brut (Calig.) (1978) l. 15685   Þa rad forð a þan felde falsest alre kinge.
1297   R. Gloucester's Chron. (1724) 385   Þys false byssop Ode.
a1400  (▸a1325)    Cursor Mundi (Vesp.) l. 11530   He was traitur, fals in fai.
1490   Caxton tr. Foure Sonnes of Aymon (1885) xxvi. 565   Now are deed the sones of foulques of moryllon by theyr false wyt.
a1533   Ld. Berners tr. Bk. Duke Huon of Burdeux (1882–7) lxxxvii. 275   This Angelars was false and a traytoure.
1559   W. Baldwin et al. Myrroure for Magistrates Suffolk xix,   My dedes..Wer shortly after treasons false estemed.
a1593   Marlowe Edward II (1594) sig. E3v,   Neuer was Plantagenet False of his word.
a1616   Shakespeare Two Gentlemen of Verona (1623) iv. iv. 133   Though his false finger haue prophan'd the Ring.
1663–72   A. Wood Life (1891) I. 471   False to his trust.
1676   R. South Serm. Worldly Wisdom (1737) I. ix. 349   False as hell, and cruel as the grave.
1709   R. Steele Tatler No. 105. ⁋3   She had been false to his Bed.
1742   Pope New Dunciad 93   They..false to Phœbus, bow the knee to Baal.
1815   Scott Guy Mannering I. i. 11   Get up, ye fause loon.
1855   T. B. Macaulay Hist. Eng. IV. 231   He might be false to his country, but not to his flag.
1857   in R. Chambers Life & Wks. R. Burns IV. 117   When this heart proves fause to thee.
1864   Dickens Our Mutual Friend (1865) I. i. ii. 9,   I banish the false wretch.

?c1225—1864(Hide quotations)


b. transf. Of ground, a foundation, etc.: Treacherous, insecure. Obs.

1590   Spenser Faerie Queene i. xi. sig. L6v,   An huge rocky clift, Whose false foundacion waues haue washt away.
1692   R. L'Estrange Fables liv. 55   The Heart of Man is like a Bog, it looks Fair to the Eye, but when we come to lay any Weight upon't, the Ground is False under us.
1697   Dryden tr. Virgil Pastorals iii, in tr. Virgil Wks. 15   Graze not too near the Banks, my jolly Sheep, The Ground is false.

1590—1697(Hide quotations)


11.   false trust n.  [= Latin falsa fides, where falsa is merely participle.] Obs. rare breach of trust .

1649   Bp. J. Hall Resol. & Decisions i. vii. 71   The..goods mis-carried, either by robbery or false trust.

1649—1649(Hide quotations)


 a. Of things, indications, appearances: Fallacious, deceptive. Of a medium of vision: That distorts the object looked at; so in †false glass, false mirror, false spectacles. false colour (fig.): cf. colour n.1 1c, 8, 15.

1531   T. Elyot Bk. named Gouernour i. xv. sig. Hv,   He wyll..sette a false colour of lernyng on propre wittes, whiche wyll be wasshed away with one shoure of raine.
1574   J. Baret Aluearie F 102   A false glasse. Speculum mendax.
1605   Bp. J. Hall Medit. & Vowes II. §79   When they wil needs have a sight of their own actions, it showes them a false glasse to looke in.
1641   J. Jackson True Evangelical Temper ii. 146   The Devill makes us false spectacles.
1658   L. Womock Exam. Tilenvs sig. A,   You seem to magnifie the riches of the divine Grace: but when we come strictly to examine it, 'tis by a false glass.
1734   Pope Ess. Man: Epist. IV 359   Wit's false Mirror held up Nature's Light; Shew'd erring Pride.
1768   W. Blackstone Comm. Laws Eng. III. 391   The true import of the evidence is duly weighed, false colours are taken off.
1849   T. B. Macaulay Hist. Eng. I. 173   Looking on all that passed at home..through a false medium.
1855   A. Bain Senses & Intellect i. iii. 255   So false is the appetite for sleep that [etc.].

1531—1855(Hide quotations)


b.   false door n. (also false postern)  [= French fausse porte] Obs. a secret door or postern.

1490   Caxton tr. Foure Sonnes of Aymon (1885) viii. 190   Yf ye doo assaille the castell, they shall yssue oute at the fauce posternes.
1552   R. Huloet Abcedarium Anglico Latinum,   Ffalse posterne or backe dore.
1627   R. Ashley tr. ‘A. Abencufian’ Almansor 44   King Almansor entered sometimes into this Hospitall by a false doore.
1768   J. Byron Narr. Patagonia 226   They have a false door to the alcove.

1490—1768(Hide quotations)

 III. Spurious, not genuine.
 13. Counterfeit, simulated, sham.

 a. Of things, esp. of metal, money, jewels: Counterfeit, spurious. Of a document: Forged.

c1000   in T. Wright & R. P. Wülcker Anglo-Saxon & Old Eng. Vocab. (1884) I. 183   Paracaraximus, fals pening [Possibly a compound of the noun, like ON. falspeningr].
?c1225  (▸?a1200)    Ancrene Riwle (Cleo. C.vi) (1972) 138   False gold for wurðeð þerin [fure].
1340   Ayenbite (1866) 26   Of guod metal hy makeþ uales moneye.
a1400  (▸a1325)    Cursor Mundi (Vesp.) l. 28395   A-mang myn oþer wark vn-lele Haf i oft forged fals sele.
c1400   Lanfranc's Cirurg. 293   Þou schalt..do awei al medicyns þat ben false.
1589   Voy. W. Towrson in R. Hakluyt Princ. Navigations i. 121   The suspition which wee gathered of their false charter parties.
1609   J. Skene tr. Regiam Majestatem 121   The wreits..can not prove against him, because they are fals.
1649   Bp. J. Hall Resol. & Decisions i. vii. 64   Criples that pretend false soares.
1730   N. Bailey et al. Dict. Britannicum,   False Diamond, one that is counterfeited with glass.
1856   J. Ruskin Mod. Painters III. 33 (note)    An artificial rose is not a ‘false’ rose, it is not a rose at all.
1867   W. H. Smyth Sailor's Word-bk.    False Papers frequently carried by slavers and smugglers.
1885   W. E. Addis & T. Arnold Catholic Dict. (ed. 3) (at cited word),   False decretals, the collection ostensibly made by Isidorus Mercator, in the middle of the ninth century.

c1000—1885(Hide quotations)


 b. Prefixed to personal designations: Pretended, that is not really such; esp. in false god, false prophet.

a1175   Cott. Hom. 237   Þurh false godes þe ælc þiode ham selfe macede.
c1200   Trin. Coll. Hom. 83   Þese ben false cristene.
c1250   Meid. Maregrete iii,   He levede on þe false godes.
1382   Bible (Wycliffite, E.V.) Baruch vi. 58   It is beter a kyng for to be schewynge..a profitable vesselle..than fals goddis [1560 Bible (Genev.) Baruch vi. 58 , Then such false gods].
1552   R. Huloet Abcedarium Anglico Latinum,   Ffalse messenger..ffalse prophet.
1870   (title)    False heir and other choice stories for the young.

a1175—1870(Hide quotations)


 c. with the name of an author: = ‘Pseudo-’.

1868   E. A. Freeman Hist. Norman Conquest II. 629   The false Ingulf.

1868—1868(Hide quotations)


 d. Of hair, teeth, etc.: Artificially made or adapted. Also false eyelashes, false nose, and in more general sense.

1591   R. Percyvall Bibliotheca Hispanica Dict. at Cabelléra,   A false heare, or peruke.
1634   T. Herbert Relation Trav. 168   Hired women, who for fiue houres space..howle bitterly, teare their false haire [etc.].
1795   E. Wynne Diary 31 Dec. (1937) II. 59   The poor Man has a dozen false teeth in his mouth.
1817   Byron Beppo lxvi,   One has false curls.
1836   Dickens Sketches by Boz 1st Ser. I. 329   Gentlemen..with..false noses.
1873   Young Englishwoman Oct. 518/2   Will the Editor kindly say if there is anything revolting in wearing false teeth?
1885   Pall Mall Gaz. 16 Apr. 3/2   The false teeth are nothing but animal teeth attached to the human teeth by means of small gold plates.
1902   Encycl. Brit. XXXII. 605/1   Where pheasants exist in any number, a ‘false covert’ of spruce and fir loppings should be made at the point to which it is desirable to force the birds.
1939   L. MacNeice Autumn Jrnl. xv. 57   False eyelashes and finger-nails of carmine.
1954   L. MacNeice Autumn Sequel xxiii. 141   That Christmas should be white Is something we go on with, like false noses.

1591—1954(Hide quotations)


 e.   false face n. a mask. Also, a deceiver, a hypocrite.

1817   Scott Rob Roy I. ix. 200   His fause-face slipped aside.
1833   M. Scott Tom Cringle's Log I. xi. 346   A white false-face or mask, of a most methodistical expression.
1893   R. L. Stevenson Catriona xxv. 300   That false-face, Prestongrange; I think shame to own to you that I was ever trusting to a lawyer.

1817—1893(Hide quotations)


 f.   false key n. a skeleton key, picklock.

1701   London Gaz. No. 3708/3,   A false Key, and a Steel, were left by the said Murderers.
1833   J. Holland Treat. Manuf. Metal II. 267   False keys, and all other counterfeit means of opening locks.

1701—1833(Hide quotations)


 g. Of attributes or actions: Feigned, counterfeited, spurious.

1609   Shakespeare Sonnets lxxii. sig. E4v,   Least your true loue may seeme falce.
1697   Dryden tr. Virgil Æneis ii, in tr. Virgil Wks. 240   False Tears true Pity move.
1711   Pope Ess. Crit. 4   So by false Learning is good Sense defac'd.

1609—1711(Hide quotations)


 h.   false action n. (also false plea) Law = ‘feigned action’: see feigned adj. 6.

1706   Phillips's New World of Words (ed. 6) ,   False Action = Faint Action.
1848   J. J. S. Wharton Law Lexicon 246/2   False plea.

1706—1848(Hide quotations)


 i.   false image n. Photogr. an extra image made on the plate by a defective lens at the same time as the image proper.

1892   Photogr. Ann. II. 39   Another troublesome fault is what is called a ghost, or false image.
1918   Photo-miniature Mar. (Gloss.),   False Image, an extra image, usually unsharp and often inverted, which a defective (doublet) lens will give on the plate at the same time as the image proper.

1892—1918(Hide quotations)


 a. Navy and Mil. Counterfeited for the purpose of deception; feigned, pretended; as in false attack, false lights, false ports, false signal.to show, hang out false colours, under false colour(s: see colour n.1 Phrases 3.

c1540  (▸?a1400)    Gest Historiale Destr. Troy (2002) f. 174,   He set hom a cas What fortune might falle vndur fals colour.
1677   London Gaz. No. 1179/2,   One towards Mount Azine, which some look upon to be only a false Attack.
1697   W. Dampier New Voy. around World ix. 252   Had we entred the Port upon the false signal we must have been taken or sunk.
1765–93   W. Blackstone Comm. Laws Eng. (ed. 12) i. 294   Putting out false lights in order to bring any vessel into danger.
1769   W. Falconer Universal Dict. Marine,   Faux sabords, false ports, painted in a ship's side, to deceive an enemy.
1809   J. Roland Amateur of Fencing 102   Various small motions made without longing, are termed false attacks.
1853   J. H. Stocqueler Mil. Encycl. 25/2   False attack, a feigned or secondary movement in the arrangements of an assault, intended to divert the attention of an enemy from the real or principal attack.

c1540—1853(Hide quotations)


 b.   false fire n.  (a) a blank discharge of firearms (obs.);  (b) a fire made to deceive an enemy, or as a night-signal.

1633   T. James Strange Voy. 26   We shot and made false fires.
1642   E. Dering Coll. Speeches on Relig. xvi. 86   Artillery men, though..nimble with false fires, are not immediately compleated into true-Souldiers.
1711   A. Duncan Mariner's Chron. (1805) III. 289   Night coming on we lost sight of our consort, and made several false fires.
1720   D. Defoe Capt. Singleton 149   We made false Fire with any Gun that was uncharged, and they would walk off as soon as they saw the Flash.
1805   Ld. Nelson in Dispatches & Lett. (1846) VII. 57   We have found the comfort of blue lights and false fires in the Mediterranean.
1853   J. H. Stocqueler Mil. Encycl. 101/2   When an army is about to retire from a position during the night, false fires are lighted in different parts of the encampment to impose upon the enemy's vigilance.

1633—1853(Hide quotations)


 c.   false alarm n. an alarm without foundation, given either purposely to deceive or under misapprehension of danger. Now often transf. or gen.

1579   S. Gosson Schoole of Abuse f. 32,   That is a vain brag, & a false allarme.
1594   T. Nashe Vnfortunate Traveller sig. C4v,   What did I now but one daie made a false alarum in the quarter where they laie.
1770   Johnson False Alarm 3   One of the chief advantages derived by the present generation from the improvement and diffusion of Philosophy, is..exemption from false alarms.
1802   C. James New Mil. Dict. at Alarm,   False-Alarms, are strategems of war, frequently made use of to harrass an enemy, by keeping them perpetually under arms.
1834   tr. Jacquemont's Journ. India I. 214   My pistols and watch were almost in his way; but, disturbed..by some noise or false alarm, he had not time to choose.
1847   A. Brontë Agnes Grey xvii,   There was ‘no need to be in such agitation about the matter—it might prove a false alarm after all’.
1873   Gentleman's Mag. New Ser. 10 587   The false alarm..was made the occasion of a discussion.., which ended in the Lord Mayor advising his civic brethren to wait and see.
1900   Daily News 7 Dec. 3/2   Any day the giving of a false alarm might cause the deaths of persons endangered by fire, and whom the Brigade did not reach in time.
1931   H. Mutschmann Gloss. Americanisms 22/1   False Alarm, a divorced woman.

1579—1931(Hide quotations)

 15. Improperly so called. (Prefixed, like quasi- or pseudo-, to form names of things bearing a deceptive resemblance to those properly denoted by the n.)

 a. in various sciences and technical uses: see quots.

1594   T. Bowes tr. P. de la Primaudaye French Acad. II. 46   The lower part of the ribs are commonly called the false ribbes, or bastard ribbes.
1741   A. Monro Anat. Bones (ed. 3) 222   The Five inferior of each Side are the False [Ribs].
1774   O. Goldsmith Hist. Earth IV. 245   Immediately on quitting the real womb, they creep into the false one.
1776   J. Seiferth tr. C. E. Gellert Metallurgic Chym. 14   It [Yellow Quartz] is called..after its colour..false topaz.
1819   S. Cooper First Lines Pract. Surg. (ed. 4) I. i. xxvii. 288   When all the coats of an artery are wounded, ruptured, or perforated by ulceration, the tumour is called a false aneurism.
1833   C. Lyell Princ. Geol. III. 175   This diagonal arrangement of the layers, sometimes called ‘false stratification’.
1854   Poultry Chron. 1 488   On inspecting the windpipe from the root of the tongue, I found congestion and swelling of the glottis and rima glottidis, but no false membrane such as I should have found in a child.
1866   J. Lindley & T. Moore Treasury Bot.,   False bark, that layer on the outside of the stem of an Endogen, which consists of cellular tissue into which fibrous tissue passes obliquely.
1869   J. R. S. Clifford in Eng. Mech. 24 Dec. 3457   At the sixth [segment] we come to what have been called the ‘false legs’ [of caterpillars].
1873   T. H. Green Introd. Pathol. & Morbid Anat. (ed. 2) 265   In croup the exuded materials coagulate principally upon the surface of the membrane, where, together with the newly-formed cellular elements, they form the false membrane.
1880   Encycl. Brit. XII. 180/2   Immediately within the opening of the nostril [of a horse], the respiratory canal sends off on its upper and outer side a diverticulum or blind pouch (called ‘false nostril’) of a conical form.
1881   St. G. Mivart Cat viii. 229   The superior or false vocal cords.
1882   S. F. A. Caulfeild & B. C. Saward Dict. Needlework 202/1   False hem. This is applied to a fold-over at the extreme edge of any portion of dress or other article..which has the appearance of a hem..but is not one.
1883   Man. Seamanship for Boys 97   Cardinal Points... False Points. So called because they borrow their names from the two points between which they come.
1883   Encycl. Brit. XV. 235/2   Such a point is called a false north pole, and we see that the existence of two true north poles necessitates the existence of a false north pole.
1886   Encycl. Brit. XXI. 404/2   These portions go on growing in a direction at an angle with the previous one, but still in contact, and thus produce the ‘false-branching’ to which the Cladothrix owes its name.
1888   Lockwood's Dict. Mech. Engin. at False Water,   When steam is generated very rapidly in a boiler, the immediate effect is a rapid rising of the water level in the gauge cocks, due to the increase in volume caused by admixture of steam. This sudden increase is termed false water.
1890   G. H. Williams Elem. Crystallogr. 212   False planes, apparent crystal faces, whose position is not that of true crystal planes, may be produced by oscillatory combination.
1902   Encycl. Brit. XXXIII. 99/2   False Station. —— When the theodolite cannot for any reason be placed over the centre of a station, if the distance be measured, and the theodolite reading of it be noted, the observed angles may be reduced to what they would be at the centre of the station. False stations have frequently to be made in practice.
1932   D. C. Minter Mod. Needlecraft 132   False hem machined on.
1948   New Biol. 5 14   Colonies such as those of Gloeotrichia and Rivularia originate by a process known as false branching, in which one part grows out at a break in the filament.
1960   B. L. Snook Eng. Hist. Embroidery 106   False quilting, worked through two thicknesses of fabric without padding, was also used.

1594—1960(Hide quotations)


 b. in popular or literary names of plants (sometimes rendering modern Latin names formed with pseudo-).

1578   H. Lyte tr. R. Dodoens Niewe Herball 42   Of the false and Bastard Rewbarbes, there are at ye least foure or fiue kindes.
1597   J. Gerard Herball (Table Eng. Names),   False Mercurie, that is All good.
1854   H. D. Thoreau Walden 218   The celtis occidentalis, or false elm.
1861   A. Pratt Flowering Plants & Ferns Great Brit. VI. 50   False Brome-grass.
1861   Chambers's Encycl. at Bottle-gourd,   The common bottle-gourd, or false calabash, is a native of India.
1861   Chambers's Encycl. at Locust Tree,   The locust-tree of America is also called the false acacia, or thorn acacia.
1878–86   J. Britten & R. Holland Dict. Eng. Plant-names,   False Parsley.
1940   E. Step Wayside & Woodland Trees 23   The Sycamore, Great Maple, or False Plane (Acer pseudoplatanus).

1578—1940(Hide quotations)


c.   false nail n. Obs. ? = agnail n. 3.

1818   Art of Preserving Feet 335   False nails..arise from a want of due attention to the parts surrounding the nail.

1818—1818(Hide quotations)


 d.   false conception n. Physiol. a spurious conception, in which a shapeless mass is produced instead of a foetus.

1611   J. Donne Anat. World sig. B4v,   And false-conceptions fill the generall wombs.
1662   R. Mathews Unlearned Alchymist §87. 121   It..brought from her an abortive or false conception.
1697   Dryden tr. Virgil Georgics iii, in tr. Virgil Wks. 109   They shed A slimy Juice, by false Conception bred.
1889   W. W. Wagstaffe Mayne's Med. Vocab. 94   False Conception, an imperfect impregnation or blighted ovum.

1611—1889(Hide quotations)


 e.   false grain n. a fresh crop of small sugar crystals formed during the process of sugar manufacture when syrup is introduced into the crystallizing pans in order to increase the size of the crystals already formed.

1900   S. P. Sadtler Handbk. Industr. Org. Chem. (ed. 3) 132   The process of admitting successive portions of fresh syrup after the ‘grain’ has once formed is used in the development of large crystals. It must be used with judgment though, or the new syrup starts a new set of minute crystals, making what is called ‘false grain’.
1959   Chambers's Encycl. V. 200/2   If more sugar is held in the solution than that given by the super-solubility curve, a fresh crop of nuclei or a ‘false grain’ will result.

1900—1959(Hide quotations)


 f.   false killer n. a name of the whale, Pseudorca crassidens, which partly resembles the killer whale (killer n. 2).

1937   J. R. Norman & F. C. Fraser Giant Fishes, Whales & Dolphins ii. xiii. 294   In the genus Pseudorca..there is only one species admitted, P. crassidens, the False Killer Whale. It is nearly related to the true Killer, but many external differences distinguish the two forms from each other.
1959   A. Hardy Fish & Fisheries xv. 288   The false killer, Pseudorca crassidens, is entirely black and might perhaps be mistaken for the pilot whale.

1937—1959(Hide quotations)


 g.   false scorpion n. = pseudoscorpion n.

1875   Encycl. Brit. II. 281/2   The impression inevitably created on a comparison of the true and false scorpions is that the latter are little scorpions without tails.
1949   Oxf. Junior Encycl. II. 140/1   False Scorpions owe their name to the possession of a pair of large, claw-like ‘pedipalpi’ or specialized feelers, like those of the Scorpions; but they lack the Scorpion's tail and sting.

1875—1949(Hide quotations)


 a.   false colour   n.  (a) in water-colour painting, a lighter tint of any of the recognized colours;  (b) (also false dye, = French teint faux) a fugitive as opposed to permanent dye.

1573   Art of Limning 4   Azure or Byze. His false coloure, Two parts azure and one of cereuse.
1573   Art of Limning 11   Lay..First thy false colours and after thy sadd.
1815   J. Smith Panorama Sci. & Art II. 527   Dyes of the second class,..are called false or little dyes.
1842   J. Bischoff Comprehensive Hist. Woollen Manuf. II. iii. 80   Two branches, namely, that of permanent colours, and that of false or fugitive colours.

1573—1842(Hide quotations)


 b.   false dawn n. (also false morning, false sunrise)  [translating Arabic ṣubḥ kāḏib] a transient light which precedes the true dawn by about an hour, a phenomenon common in the East. Also fig.

1832   J. Morier Zohrab i. 6   Do tell me..whether that be the dawn or the false dawn?
1868   E. FitzGerald tr. Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám (ed. 2) ii. 1   Before the phantom of False morning died.
1879   E. Arnold Light of Asia v. 112   Then slept he..But rose e'er the False-Dawn.
1924   E. Wharton (title)    Old New York. False Dawn.
1928   Daily Express 23 Aug. 8/3   A flickering false-sunrise.
1946   K. Tennant Lost Haven (1947) i. 29   When the false dawn came, it was a pale thing compared with the moon-light.
1963   Times 16 Jan. 3/3   We are thus back to where we were before the excitement of Melbourne and the optimism of the week that followed. That seems now like a false dawn.

1832—1963(Hide quotations)

 17. (Chiefly Mech.) Subsidiary, supplementary; substituted for or serving to supplement the thing properly or chiefly denoted by the name.

 a. false bottom: a horizontal partition in a vessel; also, a partition built close to the bottom, as in a box or trunk. Also in Mining and Metallurgy (see quot. 1881). false core (see core n.1 8).

1596   J. Harington New Disc. Aiax sig. H2v,   You shall make a false bottome to that priuy that you are annoyed with, either of lead, or stone.
1626   Bacon Sylua Syluarum §498   Take a Vessell, and..make a false Bottome of course Canuasse.
1651   J. French Art Distillation i. 5   A false bottom where the Quick~silver must lye.
1800   M. Edgeworth Little Merchants ii, in Parent's Assistant (ed. 3) III. 123   This box..has a false bottom—it holds only three quarters as much as it ought to do.
1823   J. Badcock Domest. Amusem. 146   Each vat is to have a false bottom, made with cross bars, or stout wicker work.
1843   C. Holtzapffel Turning & Mech. Manip. I. 338   The term false-core is employed by the brass founder to express the same thing as the drawback of the iron founder. The former calls every loose piece of the mould not intended for holes, a false core.
1875   R. Hunt & F. W. Rudler Ure's Dict. Arts (ed. 7) II. 472   The drawbacks, or false cores, made of sand pressed hard (and admitting of taking to pieces by joints).
1881   D. C. Davies Treat. Metallif. Min. 413   False Bottom..a loose plate put into the stamp box; a floor of iron placed in a puddling machine; a bed of drift holding auriferous drift, and overlying the bed of the latter that usually lies on the bed rock.
1907   A. McWilliam & P. Longmuir Gen. Foundry Pract. xii. 95   In light work these removable parts of a mould are termed ‘false cores’, and in heavy work ‘drawbacks’.
1933   McLachlan & Otto in W. J. Kearton Engin. Educator (ed. 2) II. 606/2   Part of a mould forming an internal shape, whether loose or not, is usually referred to as a ‘cod’, while a loose part of a mould forming some external part of it, is generally referred to as a ‘false-core’ or‘drawback’.

1596—1933(Hide quotations)


 b. Shipbuilding. Of things temporarily attached to the real or true part to assist or protect it, as in false keel, false keelson, false post, false rail, false stay, false stem, false stern, false stern-post. Also in false deck, a grating or the like supported above the main deck by the ‘close fights’.

1626   J. Smith Accidence Young Sea-men 14   A grating, netting or false decke for your close fights.
1627   J. Smith Sea Gram. xi. 53   Another keele vnder the first..wee call a false Keele.
1627   J. Smith Sea Gram. xi. 53   Fix another stem before it [sc. the stem], and that is called a false stem.
1709   London Gaz. No. 4521/2,   Having our..Back-stays cut to pieces; as also our Main and False~stay.
1769   W. Falconer Universal Dict. Marine (1789)    The false post..serves to augment the breadth of the stern-post.
1850   J. Greenwood Sailor's Sea-bk. 117   False keel.
1850   J. Greenwood Sailor's Sea-bk. 117   False rail, a rail fayed down upon the upper side of the main, or upper rail of the head.
1867   W. H. Smyth Sailor's Word-bk.,   False kelson or Kelson Rider.

1626—1867(Hide quotations)


 c. Gunmaking.

1875   ‘Stonehenge’ Man. Brit. Rural Sports (ed. 12) i. i. xi. §2. 33   The false~breech is cut away more than I like it.
1880   Encycl. Brit. XI. 280/1   A pair of barrels..abutting against a false breech.
1881   W. W. Greener Gun & its Devel. 262   A false pin is screwed into the lever, which, when removed, will leave an aperture through which the breech-pin must be extracted.

1875—1881(Hide quotations)


 d. Archit. in false pillar, false roof (see quots.). false ceiling, a dummy ceiling fixed below the genuine one (e.g. to accommodate wires, conduits, etc.).

1552   R. Huloet Abcedarium Anglico Latinum,   Ffalse roufe of a chambre, house, seller, or vault.
1611   W. Perkins Cases of Consc. (1619) 143   The other which was most outward, and lesse weightie might be vpholden by lesser proppes, which Artificers in that kind call by the name of false-pillars.
1849   J. Weale Rudim. Dict. Terms Archit. ii. 181/1   False roof, the space between the ceiling and the roof above it.
1870   E. C. Brewer Dict. Phrase & Fable 285/2   False ceiling, the space between the garret ceiling and the roof.
1874   J. T. Micklethwaite Mod. Parish Churches 213   The main pipes should..be in the false roof.
1937   Archit. Rev. 81 63 (caption)    The entrance hall from the living room, showing again the curved screen wall with its false ceiling.

1552—1937(Hide quotations)

 B. adv.

1. Untruly. With to speak, swear. Obs. or arch.

1303   R. Mannyng Handlyng Synne 776   Ȝyf þou euere swore.. Yn any tyme fals or wykkedly.
c1380   Wyclif Sel. Wks. III. 345   Whanne Petre..swore fals for a wommans vois.
a1400–50   Alexander 298   Þar haue þai fals spoken.
1621   M. Wroth Countesse of Mountgomeries Urania ii. 202   He vow'd, nothing should make him answere false.
1623   Shakespeare & J. Fletcher Henry VIII ii. iv. 133   Let him in naught be trusted, For speaking false in that.

1303—1623(Hide quotations)


 2. Improperly, wrongly. Of an arrow's flight: In the wrong direction; erringly. Of music: Out of tune, incorrectly. Obs. or arch.

1598   Shakespeare Henry IV, Pt. 1 i. ii. 65   Thou iudgest false.
1609   Shakespeare Pericles i. 167   If it be true that I interpret false.
a1616   Shakespeare Two Gentlemen of Verona (1623) iv. ii. 57   The Musitian..plaies false..So false that he grieues my very heart-strings.
1817   T. Moore Lalla Rookh 139   False flew the shaft, though pointed well.

1598—1817(Hide quotations)


 3. Faithlessly, perfidiously. Chiefly in to play (a person) false : to cheat in play; fig. to betray.

1594   Shakespeare Henry VI, Pt. 2 iii. i. 184   Beshrow the winners hearts, they plaied me false.
1600   Shakespeare Merchant of Venice i. ii. 42   His mother plaid false with a Smyth.
a1616   Shakespeare Cymbeline (1623) iii. iv. 114   Mine eare Therein false strooke, can take no greater wound.
a1616   Shakespeare Comedy of Errors (1623) ii. ii. 145   If..thou play false, I doe digest the poison of thy flesh.
1825   A. W. Fonblanque in Westm. Rev. IV. 402   Sheridan played false to his political friends on this occasion.
a1859   Macaulay Hist. Eng. (1872) V. xxiv. 24   They had their fears that Lewis might be playing false.

1594—a1859(Hide quotations)

 C. n.

1. Fraud, falsehood, treachery. In early use esp. counterfeiting (of coin), forgery. Obs.

c1000   Ælfric Genesis xliv. 7   Hwi tihþ ure hlaford us swa micles falses?
a1016   Laws of Æthelred vi. §32   Þæt an mynet gange ofer ealle þas þeode buton ælcon false.
1154   Anglo-Saxon Chron. anno 1124,   Hi hafden fordon eall þæt land mid here micele fals.
?c1200   Ormulum (Burchfield transcript) l. 7334   Crist forrwerrpeþþ falls & flærd.
c1390  (▸?c1350)    Joseph of Arimathie (1871) l. 208   Wiþ-outen faute oþ er faus.
a1400  (▸a1325)    Cursor Mundi (Coll. Phys.) l. 19254   Þu leies..and aȝte haue wand Wiþ fals þe hali gaste to fand.
c1540  (▸?a1400)    Destr. Troy 8109   Now art þou trewly hor traitour, & tainted for fals!

c1000—c1540(Hide quotations)

 2. One who or that which is false.

a. ellipt. for ‘false person’. Obs.

a1400  (1325)    Cursor Mundi (Vesp.) l. 4412   Ioseph..þat suikeful fals, þat fole lichour.
a1400  (▸a1325)    Cursor Mundi (Trin. Cambr.) l. 17473   Alle false shul fare on þat wise.
c1540  (▸?a1400)    Destr. Troy 12355   Eneas..wold haue dungyn hym to deth, & deiret þe fals.

a1400—c1540(Hide quotations)


b. What is false; falsehood. Obs. exc. as absol. use of the adj.

c1380   Wyclif Sel. Wks. III. 345   Men moten..take ofte fals as bileve.
a1592   R. Greene Sc. Hist. James IV (1861) 213   Such reports more false than truth contain.
a1616   Shakespeare Measure for Measure (1623) ii. iv. 170   My false, ore-weighs your true.
a1680   S. Butler Genuine Remains (1759) I. 224   Science..Conveys, and counterchanges true and false.
1812   H. Davy Elements Chem. Philos. 13   Truths..were blended with the false.

c1380—1812(Hide quotations)


 c. Something that is false; untruth; false appearance. Obs. exc. arch.

1598   T. Bastard Chrestoleros i. xxv. 16   He..hath put a false upon thy face.
1786   J. Clowes tr. E. Swedenborg True Christian Relig. (ed. 2) §273   His Understanding is full of Falses.
1884   Tennyson Becket iii. iii. 146   Earth's falses are heaven's truths.

1598—1884(Hide quotations)


3. Fencing. = feint n. Obs.

1637   T. Nabbes Microcosmus in Dodsley's Select Coll. Old Plays IX. 122   Mar's fencing school, where I learn'd a mystery that consists in..thrusts, falses, doubles.

1637—1637(Hide quotations)



 C1. Of the adj.:
 a. With agent-nouns forming ns.

  false-buller   n.

a1400  (1325)    Cursor Mundi (Vesp.) l. 29306   Fals bullers [see false v. 1].

a1400—a1400(Hide quotations)


  false-coiner   n.

1574   J. Baret Aluearie F 100   A false coyner. Adulterator monetæ.

1574—1574(Hide quotations)


  false-innocence n. (also false-innocent)  [compare faux-naïf n. and adj.]

1928   D. H. Lawrence Woman who rode Away 272   Her eyes especially were warm and naïve and false-innocent.
1938   R. Graves Coll. Poems 187   Their false-innocence assaulting her, Breaching her hard heart.

1928—1938(Hide quotations)


false writer   n. Obs.  (a) one who writes incorrectly;  (b) a forger.

1440   Promptorium Parvulorum    False wryter, plastographus.
1574   J. Baret Aluearie F 100   A false writer..Mendosus scriptor.

1440—1574(Hide quotations)

 b. With pa. pples., forming adjs. chiefly parasynthetic.

  false-biased adj.

1654   R. Whitlock Ζωοτομία 450   For our Equalls, what they say or do..what is good, we make Casuall, or false Byassed.

1654—1654(Hide quotations)


  false-bottomed adj.

1655   H. L'Estrange Reign King Charles 25   You have..upon false-bottomed suggestions endeavoured to distain his [the king's]..honour.

1655—1655(Hide quotations)


  false-eyed adj.

a1644   F. Quarles Solomons Recantation (1645) 55   Then banish fals-ey'd mirth.

a1644—a1644(Hide quotations)


  false-faced adj.

a1616   Shakespeare Coriolanus (1623) i. x. 44   Let Courts and Cities be Made all of false-fac'd soothing.
a1959   E. Muir Coll. Poems (1960) 291   But why was our old friend Everyman Among this false-faced company?

a1616—a1959(Hide quotations)


  false-faithed adj.

1601   R. Chester Loves Martyr 71   False-faith'd Scotland.

1601—1601(Hide quotations)


  false-fingered adj.

1648   J. Goodwin Νεοϕυτοπρεσβυτερος in Ess. 4   Fals-fingered men.

1648—1648(Hide quotations)


  false-fronted adj.

1889   A. R. Hope in Boy's Own Paper 3 Aug. 697/2   The false-fronted frump.

1889—1889(Hide quotations)


  false-grounded adj.

1649   F. Roberts Clavis Bibliorum (ed. 2) 341   His confutation, of their false-grounded opinion.

1649—1649(Hide quotations)


  false-hearted adj.

1571   A. Golding tr. J. Calvin Psalmes of Dauid with Comm. (lv. 21)   Ye falseharted folk bear in their mouth hony dipped in poison.
1685   R. Baxter Paraphr. New Test. Matt. xii. 39   A false-hearted People that will not be convinced by Miracles.
1847   R. W. Emerson Poems 13   When love has once departed From the eyes of the false-hearted.

1571—1847(Hide quotations)


  false-heartedness adj.

1571   A. Golding tr. J. Calvin Psalmes of Dauid with Comm. (xli. 7)   To utter the falsehartednesse assoone as they come out of the doores.
1889   Voice (N.Y.) 16 May,   The..false heartedness of the temperance Republicans.

1571—1889(Hide quotations)


  false-necked adj.

1892   Academy 24 Sept. 270   False-necked vases are represented in the tomb of Ramessu III.

1892—1892(Hide quotations)


  false-principled adj.

1837   H. Martineau Society in Amer. III. 94   The brand of contempt should be fixed upon any..false principled style of manners.

1837—1837(Hide quotations)


  false-tongued adj.

1910   W. de la Mare Three Mulla-Mulgars 41   Oh, these false-tongued Mulgars!

1910—1910(Hide quotations)


  false-visored adj.

1563   J. Foxe Actes & Monuments 1355/2   The dark and falseuisured kingdom of Antichrist.

1563—1563(Hide quotations)

 C2. Of the adv.:
 a. With pr. pples., forming adjs.

  false-boding adj.

1597   Shakespeare Richard III i. iii. 245   False boading woman, end thy frantike curse.

1597—1597(Hide quotations)


  false-creeping adj.

1594   Shakespeare Lucrece sig. L1,   Iealousie it selfe could not mistrust False creeping Craft.

1594—1594(Hide quotations)


  false-glozing adj. (see glozing n.)

1633   G. Herbert Dotage in Temple i,   False glozing pleasures.
1686   R. South Serm. (1737) II. ix. 347   A false glossing parasite would..call his fool-hardiness valour.

1633—1686(Hide quotations)


  false-judging adj.

1837   H. Hallam Introd. Lit. Europe I. viii. 616   A very false-judging pedantry.

1837—1837(Hide quotations)


  false-lying adj.

1562   W. Turner 2nd Pt. Herball f. 70v,   A falslying good lesse man.

1562—1562(Hide quotations)


  false-persuading adj.

1682   T. Otway Venice Preserv'd iv. 56   Thanks to thy tears and false perswading love.

1682—1682(Hide quotations)


  false-speaking adj.

1599   Shakespeare in Shakespeare et al. Passionate Pilgrime (new ed.) sig. A3,   I smiling, credite her false speaking toung.
1884   tr. H. Lotze Logic 286   False-speaking is wrong in itself.

1599—1884(Hide quotations)


  false-warbling adj.

1730   J. Thomson Spring in Seasons 47   False-warbling in his cheated ear.

1730—1730(Hide quotations)


  false-contracting   n.

1605   J. Sylvester tr. G. de S. Du Bartas Deuine Weekes & Wks. ii. i. 352   Theeuing, False-contracting, Church-chaffering [etc.].

1605—1605(Hide quotations)


  false-dealing   n.

1702   C. Mather Magnalia Christi i. ii. 7/2   This False-dealing proved a Safe-dealing for the good People against whom it was used.

1702—1702(Hide quotations)


  false-enditing   n.

c1480   J. Watton Speculum Christiani 30 b,   Fals Enditing.

c1480—c1480(Hide quotations)


  false speaking n.


  false-promising   n.

1684   T. Otway Atheist i. 6   There's..False-promising at Court.

1684—1684(Hide quotations)


  false-writing n.

 b. With pa. pples., forming adjs.

  false-derived adj.

1600   Shakespeare Henry IV, Pt. 2 iv. i. 188   Euery..false deriued cause.

1600—1600(Hide quotations)


  false-fed adj.

1680   H. More Apocalypsis Apocalypseos 69   They shall not be false-fed..by deceitful Teachers.

1680—1680(Hide quotations)


  false-found adj.

a1558   Queen Mary I in J. Foxe Actes & Monuments (1570) III. 1570/1   Sedition and false rumors haue bene nourished..by..Printyng of false fonde bokes.

a1558—a1558(Hide quotations)


  false-gotten adj.

1460   in Polit., Relig., & Love Poems (1866) 260   Fals goten good.

1460—1460(Hide quotations)


  false-imagined adj.

1673   Milton On Death Fair Infant xi, in Poems (ed. 2) 20   Her false imagin'd loss cease to lament.

1673—1673(Hide quotations)


  false-persuaded adj.

1608   Shakespeare King Lear iv. 228,   I should be false persuaded I had daughters.

1608—1608(Hide quotations)


  false-pretended adj.

1553   tr. E. Bonner in tr. S. Gardiner De Vera Obediencia: Oration Pref. B v,   False pretended supremacie.

1553—1553(Hide quotations)


  false-purchased adj.

1530   Form Greater Excommun. in W. Maskell Monumenta Ritualia Ecclesiae Anglicanae (1846) II. 299   All tho ben acursed..that use wytingly suche false purchased letters.

1530—1530(Hide quotations)


  false-spoken adj.

1843   T. Carlyle Past & Present ii. x. 123   False-spoken, unjust.

1843—1843(Hide quotations)


  false-sworn adj.

1569   J. Sanford tr. H. C. Agrippa Of Vanitie Artes & Sci. 2 b,   A falsesworne Marchaunte.

1569—1569(Hide quotations)


  false-tinctured adj.

1706   I. Watts Horæ Lyricæ (1808) ii. 169   The cruel shade apply'd..a false tinctur'd glass.

1706—1706(Hide quotations)


  false-whited adj.

1641   Milton Reason Church-govt. 58   A false-whited, a lawnie resemblance of her.

1641—1641(Hide quotations)


  false-termed adj.

1729   R. Savage Wanderer ii. 391   False-term'd honour.

1729—1729(Hide quotations)


  false-written adj.

a1754   T. Carte Gen. Hist. Eng. (1755) IV. 93   Names false-written as Artherus for Arthurus.

a1754—a1754(Hide quotations)


  false-brood   v.

1948   Brit. Birds 41 237   He ‘false-brooded’ by crouching in any convenient depression nearby.
1948   Brit. Birds 41 243   In the same way false-brooding occurs as a substitute activity when uncertainty arises within the bird's mental framework.

1948—1948(Hide quotations)


  false-colour   v.

1817   S. T. Coleridge Biogr. Lit. (1847) II. 170   Genius neither distorts nor false-colours its objects.

1817—1817(Hide quotations)


  false-feed   v.

1948   Brit. Birds 41 12   She then inserts her bill into that of the male and symbolic ‘false-feeding’ follows in which food is not actually passed.

1948—1948(Hide quotations)


  false-play   v.

a1616   Shakespeare Antony & Cleopatra (1623) iv. xv. 19   The Queene..has false plaid my Glory Vnto an Enemies triumph.

a1616—a1616(Hide quotations)


  false-point v.

1892   Field 7 May 695/1   They kept on false pointing and backing..Ivybridge did little else but false point.

1892—1892(Hide quotations)


  false-preen   v.

1949   Brit. Birds 42 7   On one or two occasions the false-preening by the male, mentioned by Makkink, was observed at this stage.
1961   D. Nethersole-Thompson in D. A. Bannerman Birds Brit. Isles X. 313   After oystercatchers have copulated, they may preen or ‘false preen’, feed rapidly or ‘false feed’, peck at the ground, curtsey.

1949—1961(Hide quotations)


  false-promise   v.

a1618   J. Sylvester Cup Consol. 22   Smiling Hope..False-promiseth long Peace and plenty too.

a1618—a1618(Hide quotations)


 (b)   false-brooding n.

 C3. Special comb.

false-back adj. Obs. ? treacherously retreating.

1633   P. Fletcher Purple Island xi. xlviii. 157   The false-back Tartars fear with cunning feigne.

1633—1633(Hide quotations)


  false-bedded adj. Geol. (see quots. 1876, 1877 for false-bedding adj.).

1876   D. Page Adv. Text-bk. Geol. (ed. 6) v. 91   Sandstones are said to be false-bedded when their strata are crossed obliquely by numerous laminæ.
1884   Nature 13 Nov. 32   The lower zone of false-bedded grits.

1876—1884(Hide quotations)


  false-bedding adj. see false-bedded adj.

1876   H. B. Woodward Geol. Eng. & Wales (1887) 13   False-bedding..is a feature produced in shallow water by currents and tidal action, whereby beds are heaped up in irregular layers without any approach to horizontality or continuity.
1877   A. H. Green Physical Geol. (ed. 2) iv. §1. 124   False-bedding e.g. Current-, Cross-, or Drift-Bedding.

1876—1877(Hide quotations)


false-cup   n. Obs. a kind of drinking cup.

1708   P. A. Motteux Wks. F. Rabelais (1737) v. xxxiv. 152   False-Cups, Tumblers.

1708—1708(Hide quotations)


  false ebony   n. (see quots.).

1892   C. M. Yonge Old Woman's Outlook v. 96   The inside heart wood [of the laburnum] is so black as to be called false-ebony.
1911   Encycl. Brit. XVI. 32/1   The heart wood of the laburnum is of a dark reddish-brown colour, hard and durable, and takes a good polish... The laburnum has been called false ebony from this character of its wood.

1892—1911(Hide quotations)


  false greenheart n. a small myrtaceous tree, Calyptranthes Chytraculia.


false-heart adj. Obs. = false-hearted adj. at Compounds 1b.

a1616   Shakespeare Henry VI, Pt. 2 (1623) v. i. 141,   I am thy King, and thou a false-heart Traitor.

a1616—a1616(Hide quotations)


  false hellebore   n. any plant of the genus Veratrum (family Melanthaceae), esp. V. viride.

1859   A. Gray Man. Bot. Northern U.S. (rev. ed.) 476   Veratrum..False Hellbore.
1980   Jrnl. Torrey Bot. Club 107 453   False hellebore Veratrum viride),..and rattlesnake plantain (Goodyera pubescens) were also noted.

1859—1980(Hide quotations)


  false honeysuckle n. ‘the genus Azalea’ (W. Miller Dict. Eng. Plant-names).

1822   A. Eaton Man. Bot. (ed. 3) 427   False honey-suckle..leaves oval, entire, glaucous-pubescent beneath: flowers in terminal umbels.
1906   Mrs. L. A. McCoy in Prosperous Washington 57/2   There is also a beautiful azalea, or false honeysuckle, growing in the woods of the Cascade mountains.
2008   J. Watson Torrent Falls xl. 369   Dylan had scythed scrub willows and invasive false honeysuckle from the banks.

1822—2008(Hide quotations)


false moth   n. Obs. (tr. modern Latin pseudo-tinea Réaumur): an insect closely resembling the clothes-moth, but feeding on leaves.

1763   J. Mills New Syst. Pract. Husbandry III. 53   False Moth.

1763—1763(Hide quotations)


  false mermaid   n. a North American aquatic plant of the genus Floerkea (family Limnanthaceae); also false mermaid-weed.

1845–50   A. H. Lincoln Familiar Lect. Bot. App. v. 103/2   Flœrkia palustris (false mermaid).
1846–50   A. Wood Class-bk. Bot. 200   Flœrkea proserpinacoides... False Mermaid.
1866   J. Lindley & T. Moore Treasury Bot. II. 737/1   Mermaid-weed, false. Flörkea.

1845-50—1866(Hide quotations)


  false mustard   n. Polanisia Graveolens (formerly Cleome dodecandria).

1845–50   A. H. Lincoln Familiar Lect. Bot. App. 144/1   Polanisia..graveolens, (false mustard..).

1845-50—1845-50(Hide quotations)


  false muster   n. Mil. the inclusion in a muster-roll of people who are not available for service; fraudulent presentation at a muster; an instance of this; freq. fig. in early use.

1653   Ld. Wariston & J. Guthrie Causes of Lords Wrath against Scotl. 38   What interverting of Levies, what false Musters.
1665   T. Manley tr. H. Grotius De Rebus Belgicis 197   What with Death, and running away, and what with the Captains false Musters, they hardly arose to that Number.
1686   R. South Serm. (1697) II. ix. 418   It is this Plague of the World, Deception, which takes wrong Measures, and makes false Musters almost in every Thing.
1728   E. Chambers Cycl.,   False Muster, is when such Men pass in Review, as are not actually listed as Soldiers.
1752   A. Murphy Gray's Inn Jrnl. (1756) i. 116 No. 17,   There are besides several Faggots, and False-musters, which the General thinks proper to connive at.
1790   J. Wesley Wks. (1872) IV. 493   Still I complain of false musters.
1801   Duke of Wellington Dispatches (1837) I. 326   Our friend, the Commissary, has been guilty of making false musters, as appears in the clearest manner.
1817   J. Mill Hist. Brit. India II. iv. viii. 274   He excelled in deceiving the government with false musters and accounts.
1904   Athenæum 10 Sept. 339/3   Dismissed for dishonest greed—for suttling, false musters, or turning their ships into merchantmen.
1980   Mil. Affairs Dec. 172   The marine officers ‘corrupted’ the naval officers by ‘introducing’ them to the pernicious practices of mis-ratings and false musters.

1653—1980(Hide quotations)


  false-nerved adj. Bot. having no vascular tissue.

1866   J. Lindley & T. Moore Treasury Bot.,   False-nerved, when veins have no vascular tissue, but are formed of simple elongated cellular tissue; as in mosses, seaweeds, etc.

1866—1866(Hide quotations)


  false nest   n. (see quot.).

1954   D. A. Bannerman Birds Brit. Isles III. 354   This species [wren] builds ‘false’ nests in the vicinity of the nest which is eventually to hold the eggs..some naturalists considering that they are for the purpose of roosting in, but this is denied by others who consider they are merely the result of the male's craze for building.

1954—1954(Hide quotations)


  false packing n.

a1529   J. Skelton Dethe Erle Northumberland 71   Ther was fals packing, or els I am begylde.

a1529—a1529(Hide quotations)


false pellitory of Spain   n. Obs. rare  (a) masterwort, Peucedanum ostruthium;  (b) (in quot. 1760) a plant of the family Compositae of uncertain identity, perhaps a species of Tanacetum.

1597   J. Gerard Herball ii. 848   Imperatoria. Masterwoorts, or False Pellitory of Spaine.
1760   J. Lee Introd. Bot. App. 312   Pellitory of Spain, False, Chrysanthemum.

1597—1760(Hide quotations)


  false pennyroyal n. name for two N. American labiates, Trichostemma dichotomum and Isanthus cœruleus.


  false pile n. a pile (pile n.1 3a) to which additional length is given after driving.


false play n. treacherous dealing (obs.).

1567   J. Maplet Greene Forest f. 84,   He is good in finding out false play or adulterie done.

1567—1567(Hide quotations)


  false pimpernel n.  (a) Chaffweed, Centunculus minimus;  (b) ‘an American name for Ilysanthes gratioloides’ ( Treasury Bot. 1866, Miller Plant-n. 1884).


  false red-top   n. any of several grasses, esp. of the genera Tridens and Poa.

1846–50   A. Wood Class-bk. Bot. 613   Tricuspis seslerioides. False Red-top.
1859   W. Darlington & G. Thurber Amer. Weeds & Useful Plants 382   Poa serotina, Late Poa. Fowl Meadow-Grass. False Red-top.

1846-50—1859(Hide quotations)


  false rein   n. ‘a lath of leather, passed sometimes through the arch of the banquet to bend the horse's neck’ (Chambers Cycl. 1727–38).

1565–6   T. Blundeville Newe Bk. Arte Ryding x. 7   When to vse false Reanes, and when to leaue them.

1565-6—1565-6(Hide quotations)


  false rhatany   n. the astringent extract of the Seaside Grape, Coccoloba uvifera.

1839   Penny Cycl. XIII. 237/2   In the West Indies the juice of the Coccoloba uvifera is called..false rhatany extract.
1873   F. H. Hooker & J. D. Hooker tr. E. Le Maout & J. Decaisne Gen. Syst. Bot. 635.  
1901   Year-bk. Pharmacy 162   P. H. Marsden..describes and illustrates by photographs the macro- and microscopic appearance of a false rhatany root, imported into Liverpool.

1839—1901(Hide quotations)


  false rib   n. a rib which is not connected directly to the sternum.

?a1425   tr. Guy de Chauliac Grande Chirurgie (Hunterian) f. 57,   Þer ben twelue ribbes on eiþer side off þe bodie..ffyue fals ribbes and seuene verreie oþer trewe ribbes. Þe false ribbes be cleped mendose be cause þat þei be not hole.
1741   A. Monro Anat. (ed. 3) 222   The Ribs are commonly divided into True and False.

?a1425—1741(Hide quotations)


  false rocket   n. U.S. a cruciferous perennial ( Iodanthus pinnatifida).

1848   A. Gray Man. Bot. Northern U.S. 32   Iodanthus, Torr. & Gray. False Rocket.

1848—1848(Hide quotations)


  false twist   n.  [twist n.1 4] Textiles (see quot. 19601), also attrib.; whence false-twist v. intr. and false-twisting ppl. adj.

1960   Textile Terms & Defs. (ed. 4) 62   False twist, turns inserted in opposite directions and in equal numbers in adjacent elements of yarn..characterized by its temporary nature.
1960   Textile Terms & Defs. (ed. 4) 62   The false-twisting element, through which the yarn or sliver passes.
1965   Guardian 31 Mar. 17/1   False-twist version of acetate yarn.
1965   Guardian 31 Mar. 17/1   The idea of false-twisting acetate yarns.

1960—1965(Hide quotations)


false-winged adj. Archit. Obs. = pseudodipteral adj.

c1720   N. Dubois & G. Leoni tr. A. Palladio Architecture IV. i. xii. 23   This Temple was..false-wing'd.

c1720—c1720(Hide quotations)


Draft additions December 2006

false molar   n. Obs.  [after French fausses molaires, plural (1817 or earlier)] = premolar n.

1827   E. Griffith tr. G. de Cuvier Animal Kingdom II. 25   This large molar above, and the corresponding one below , we shall call, with M. Frederic Cuvier, carnivorous teeth (carnassières), the anterior pointed teeth we shall call false molars, and the posterior blunt ones, tuberculous teeth.
1863   T. H. Huxley Evid. Man's Place Nat. 98   The latter [sc. the permanent teeth] comprise four incisors, two canines, four small grinders, called premolars or false molars, and six..true molars.

1827—1863(Hide quotations)


Draft additions  1993

  false arrest   n. U.S. Law arrest contrary to law.

1882   Rep. 6th U.S. Circuit Court ii. 222   Being the person actually accused, he could not, I think, complain of a false arrest.
1896   Federal Cases (U.S.) XXVI. 407/1   Thereupon a complaint and warrant was procured by Hudson for the false arrest and imprisonment of the Halls by Head.
1924   N.Y. Times 20 Nov. 15/1   The suit..for $35,000 damages, alleging false arrest and malicious prosecution, went to trial..yesterday.
1954   W. Faulkner Fable 176   When his lawyers sue your bondsmen for false arrest, they can tell them to go chase themselves.
1985   Los Angeles Times 16 Aug. ii. 3/1   Charging Bullock's with malicious prosecution, false imprisonment and false arrest.

1882—1985(Hide quotations)


Draft additions  1993

  false move   n. an imprudent or careless move or act, esp. one leading to disaster.

1870   ‘F. Fern’ Ginger-snaps 79   When some clerical big-gun is supposed to make a false move on the sacerdotal chequer-board.
1958   G. Greene Our Man in Havana v. v. 239   Wormold..made a false move which enabled Segura to thrust a protected piece into square 22.
1960   Today 25 June 12/4   Remember also that one false move could cost Sally her life.
1989   B. Neal Southern Cooking (rev. ed.) x. 142   The slightest false move would set it skittering over the rim and across the table.

1870—1989(Hide quotations)


Draft additions  1993

  false economy   n. (an) apparent saving that leads to greater expense in the long run.

1781   G. Morris in J. Sparks Life G. Morris (1832) I. xiv. 234   Greatly to curtail salaries is a false economy.
1847   C. Brontë Jane Eyre I. xiii. 238   ‘For economy's sake, [he] bought us bad needles and thread, with which we could hardly sew.’ ‘That was very false economy,’ remarked Mrs. Fairfax.
1933   Jrnl. Royal Aeronaut. Soc. 37 880   The fact that a larger amount of money is required within the two years period has prevented contracts being secured. This is an example of false economy, which..is very prevalent to-day.
1955   W. Gaddis Recognitions i. i. 4   The buttons..had originally been made, with all of false economy's ingenious drear deception, of coated cardboard.
1982   Christian Sci. Monitor 27 May 24/1   Communities have to review tax cuts to keep economy from turning into false economy—the inadequate schooling that undermines business, jobs, and citizenship.

1781—1982(Hide quotations)


Draft additions  1993

  false modesty   n. affected or pretended modesty concealing pride.

1710   Steele Tatler No. 168. ⁋4   There is no Way of mending such false Modesty.
1899   E. H. Miles Lessons Lawn Tennis xi. 69   The man should have no false modesty..about a certain amount of poaching.
1923   ‘R. Crompton’ Innermost Room ii. i. 108   Miss Gill..considered that half the evil in the world arose from ignorance and ‘false modesty’.
1956   N. Pevsner Englishness of English Art vi. 151   He knew what he was doing, and there is no false modesty in what he writes about his achievement.
1985   N.Y. Times 21 Nov. b3/5   ‘I'm not going to let false modesty stand in the way,’ he told the foreign correspondents as he recited some of his accomplishments as Mayor.

1710—1985(Hide quotations)


Draft additions  1993


  Assumed or ascribed in order to deceive, fictitious, as false age, false name, etc.

1842   W. T. Brande Dict. Sci., Lit. & Art 995/2   Pseudepigraphy, the ascription of false names of authors to works.
1893   A. Conan Doyle Stockbroker's Clerk in Compl. Sherlock Holmes Short Stories (1928) 373   By some means..he succeeded in winning, under a false name, this official position in the office, which he utilized in order to obtain mouldings of various locks.
1929   R. A. Freeman Famous Cases Dr. Thorndyke iv. 139   Now, a common thief, he was sneaking in under a false name.
1958   A. Sillitoe Saturday Night & Sunday Morning i. v. 78   In fact he joined too young by giving a false age and at seventeen had been thrown into the last offensive over the Rhine.
1987   Sunday Tel. 12 July (Colour Suppl.) 7   False names, private jets and secret addresses—the Royal Family are off on their hols again.

1842—1987(Hide quotations)


Draft additions September 2004


  false consciousness   n. (in later use esp. in Marxist theory) a belief or outlook that (supposedly) prevents a person from being able to discern the true nature of his or her (social or economic) situation.

1858   H. L. Mansel Limits of Relig. Thought iv. 118   If man's dependence on God is not really destructive of his personal freedom, the religious consciousness, in denying that freedom, is a false consciousness.
1934   D. Torr tr. F. Engels in K. Marx & F. Engels Corr. 1846–95 511   Ideology is a process accomplished by the so-called thinker consciously, indeed, but with a false consciousness [Ger. falschen Bewußtsein]. The real motives impelling him remain unknown to him, otherwise it would not be an ideological process at all.
1969   Times 13 Jan. 7/6   They insist that those who differ from them are blinded by ‘false consciousness’.
2000   Z. Smith White Teeth iv. 78   She reads, in a few short months, Greer's Female Eunuch, Jong's Fear of Flying and The Second Sex, all in a clandestine attempt, on Neena's part, to rid Clara of her ‘false consciousness’.

1858—2000(Hide quotations)


Draft additions December 2005


  false mastic   n. a tall tree of Florida, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America, Sideroxylon foetidissimum (family Sapotaceae), which yields a hard wood suitable for construction and furniture and bears yellow flowers with a cheesy smell; also called mastic, mastic-bully.

1944   Sci. Monthly Aug. 101/1   These are the characteristics of heartwood from the five species of trees to be described..: lysiloma, mahogany, fishpoison-tree, false-mastic, and lignumvitae.
1969   T. H. Everett Living Trees of World xxx. 284/1   Good lumber for construction, boatbuilding, furniture and fence posts is produced by the jocuma or false mastic.
1998   Amer. Forests (Nexis) 22 Mar. 14   In 1992 Hurricane Andrew wiped out many national champions in south Florida, but the report of the death of the biggest false-mastic was, as Mark Twain would say, greatly exaggerated.

1944—1998(Hide quotations)


Draft additions June 2013


  false negative n. a test result that incorrectly appears to indicate the absence of a condition or characteristic which is actually present.

1972   ABA Jrnl. Aug. 816/2   Failures in spotting potential offender—the false negatives— would be exposed.
1994   D. S. T. Nicholl Introd. Genetic Engineering xii. 228   A test such as this, where no positive result is obtained even though the individual is infected, is a false negative.
2003   Family Circle 13 May 120/2   Such results are called a ‘false negative’, meaning you really do have Lyme disease, even though the blood test is negative.

1972—2003(Hide quotations)


  false positive n. a test result that incorrectly appears to indicate the presence of a condition or characteristic which is actually absent.

1912   Trans. Med. Soc. Virginia 42 56   His modification [of the reaction] is undoubtedly open to serious objection, in that it gives a rather discouraging number of false positives.
1961   New Scientist 5 Oct. 49/3   Of 182 cases..examined there were only two false positives, explained by errors in technique.
1990   Sci. Amer. May 21/2   The test gave an unacceptably high number of false positives: substances other than gunpowder that gave a positive reading included urine, tobacco,..fertilizer and colored fingernail polish.
2012   A. Brashares Sisterhood Everlasting 129   I know you're pregnant. I had them run the test twice. False positives are extremely rare after four of five weeks.

1912—2012(Hide quotations)


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