Top 76 Slang For Not Real – Meaning & Usage

In a world where reality and fantasy often blur, it’s essential to have the right words to describe things that are not quite real. From imaginary friends to make-believe scenarios, our team has put together a list of the most popular slang terms used to refer to things that exist only in our minds. Dive into this article to expand your vocabulary and stay ahead of the curve in understanding the language of the unreal.

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1. Fictitious

This word refers to something that is not real or does not actually exist. It is often used to describe fictional characters, stories, or events.

  • For example, “The novel tells the story of a fictitious kingdom.”
  • In a discussion about conspiracy theories, someone might say, “That theory is completely fictitious.”
  • A movie reviewer might comment, “The film takes viewers on a journey through a vivid and fictitious world.”

2. Unreal

This slang term is used to describe something that is not real or does not seem believable. It can be used to express disbelief or surprise.

  • For instance, someone might exclaim, “That party was unreal!”
  • In a conversation about a particularly impressive performance, someone might say, “The athlete’s skills were unreal.”
  • A person sharing a photo of a breathtaking landscape might caption it, “The view from the top was unreal.”

3. Make-believe

This word is often used to describe something that is not real, but is imagined or pretended. It is commonly used when talking about children’s games or imaginative play.

  • For example, a parent might say, “My kids love to engage in make-believe adventures.”
  • In a discussion about the power of imagination, someone might comment, “Make-believe allows us to explore new worlds.”
  • A teacher might encourage her students by saying, “Let’s use our make-believe skills to create a story together.”

4. Fictional

This term is used to describe something that is made up or not based on real events or people. It is often used when talking about books, movies, or other forms of storytelling.

  • For instance, a book reviewer might say, “The author has created a rich fictional world.”
  • In a discussion about favorite movies, someone might mention, “I love watching fictional stories that transport me to another reality.”
  • A fan of a particular TV show might say, “The characters in this show feel so real, even though they are fictional.”

5. Imaginary

This word is used to describe something that exists only in the imagination or is not real. It is often used when talking about imaginary friends, creatures, or worlds.

  • For example, a child might say, “I have an imaginary friend named Charlie.”
  • In a conversation about creativity, someone might say, “Imaginary worlds can inspire amazing stories.”
  • A writer might describe her latest novel as, “An epic journey through an imaginary realm.”

6. Pretend

This word is used to describe something that is not real or genuine. It refers to acting or playing a role that is not based in reality.

  • For example, children often engage in pretend play, imagining themselves as superheroes or princesses.
  • In a conversation about a fictional story, someone might say, “The characters in the book exist only in the pretend world of the author.”
  • A person might use this word to describe someone who is not being authentic, saying, “She’s just pretending to be nice.”

7. Fabricated

This term describes something that has been made up or created, often with the intention of deceiving others. It implies that the information or story is not true or accurate.

  • For instance, a journalist might uncover a fabricated story and expose it as false.
  • In a discussion about conspiracy theories, someone might claim, “The moon landing was fabricated by the government.”
  • A person might use this term to describe a false accusation, saying, “He fabricated the whole story to get revenge.”

8. Illusory

This word refers to something that appears real or true but is actually false or misleading. It suggests that what is being perceived or experienced is not based in reality.

  • For example, an optical illusion creates an illusory effect, tricking the viewer’s perception.
  • In a philosophical discussion, someone might argue, “Our senses can sometimes give us illusory experiences.”
  • A person might use this term to describe a false hope or expectation, saying, “The promise of quick riches turned out to be illusory.”

9. Phony

This slang term is used to describe something or someone that is not genuine or authentic. It suggests that the person or thing is pretending to be something they are not.

  • For instance, a person might refer to a counterfeit product as phony, saying, “That designer bag is a phony.”
  • In a conversation about a dishonest person, someone might say, “He’s such a phony; you can’t trust anything he says.”
  • A person might use this term to describe a fake smile or emotion, saying, “She’s just putting on a phony act.”

10. Bogus

This word is used to describe something that is fake, false, or not genuine. It implies that what is being presented or claimed is not true or valid.

  • For example, a person might receive a bogus email claiming they won a lottery they never entered.
  • In a discussion about scams, someone might warn, “Be careful of websites selling bogus products.”
  • A person might use this term to describe a false document or identification, saying, “That ID card is totally bogus.”

11. Sham

A sham is something that is not genuine or authentic, often used to describe a person or thing that is deceptive or fake.

  • For example, “That product they’re selling is a complete sham. It doesn’t do what it claims.”
  • In a discussion about a scam, someone might say, “The company was running a sham operation, taking people’s money without delivering any goods.”
  • A person might describe a fake designer bag as a “sham” by saying,“sham” by saying, “Don’t be fooled by that counterfeit purse. It’s just a sham.”

12. False

False is a term used to describe something that is not true or accurate. It can refer to information, statements, or claims that are deceptive or incorrect.

  • For instance, “The rumor about the celebrity’s death turned out to be false.”
  • In a debate, someone might argue, “His claims are false and based on misinformation.”
  • A person might say, “Don’t believe what he’s saying. It’s all false.”

13. Artificial

Artificial refers to something that is not natural or real, often created or produced by humans. It can be used to describe objects, substances, or even behaviors that are not genuine.

  • For example, “That plant is artificial. It’s not real.”
  • In a discussion about sweeteners, someone might say, “I prefer natural sugar over artificial sweeteners.”
  • A person might describe a fake smile as artificial by saying, “Her smile looked forced and artificial.”

14. Invented

Invented refers to something that is not real or existing, but rather created or imagined. It can be used to describe stories, ideas, or concepts that are not based on reality.

  • For instance, “The author invented a whole new world for their fantasy novel.”
  • In a discussion about conspiracy theories, someone might say, “Those claims are completely invented.”
  • A person might describe a fictional character as invented by saying, “The writer’s imagination brought forth a beautifully invented protagonist.”

15. Unrealistic

Unrealistic refers to something that is not practical or feasible, often used to describe ideas, expectations, or goals that are not achievable or likely to happen in reality.

  • For example, “His plan to become a millionaire overnight is unrealistic.”
  • In a conversation about relationships, someone might say, “Having unrealistic expectations can lead to disappointment.”
  • A person might describe a movie’s special effects as unrealistic by saying, “The CGI in that film looked completely unrealistic.”

16. Imagined

Something that is not real or does not exist. It is often used to describe something that is purely the product of someone’s imagination.

  • For example, “The story she told was completely imagined.”
  • A person might say, “That’s just an imagined scenario, it will never happen.”
  • In a discussion about fictional characters, someone might ask, “Who is your favorite imagined character?”

17. Mythical

Refers to something that is part of mythology or folklore, often involving gods, creatures, or events that are not based in reality.

  • For instance, “The unicorn is a mythical creature.”
  • In a discussion about ancient civilizations, someone might mention, “The city of Atlantis is often considered mythical.”
  • A person might say, “The story of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table is a mythical tale.”

18. Untrue

Something that is not true or accurate. It is often used to describe statements or claims that are not based in reality.

  • For example, “His explanation was completely untrue.”
  • In a discussion about rumors, someone might say, “That’s an untrue rumor, don’t believe it.”
  • A person might argue, “The article contains many untrue statements.”

19. Hollow

Describes something that lacks substance or is without meaning. It is often used to describe promises, words, or actions that are insincere or without real value.

  • For instance, “His apology felt hollow, like he didn’t really mean it.”
  • In a discussion about political speeches, someone might say, “The candidate’s promises sound hollow.”
  • A person might comment, “The praise she received felt hollow because it wasn’t genuine.”

20. Deceptive

Refers to something that is intended to deceive or trick others. It is often used to describe actions or appearances that hide the true nature of something.

  • For example, “The magician used a deceptive trick to make the object disappear.”
  • In a discussion about advertising, someone might say, “The product’s packaging is deceptive, it looks bigger than it actually is.”
  • A person might warn, “Be careful, appearances can be deceptive.”

21. Spurious

Something that is not genuine or authentic. It refers to information or claims that are made without evidence or support.

  • For example, “The article made spurious claims about the effects of the new diet.”
  • In a debate, one might say, “Your argument is based on spurious assumptions.”
  • A person might question a statement by saying, “That sounds spurious to me, do you have any proof?”

22. Fallacious

An argument or claim that is incorrect or misleading. It refers to reasoning or logic that is flawed or invalid.

  • For instance, “The politician’s fallacious statements were quickly debunked.”
  • In a discussion, one might point out, “Your reasoning is fallacious because it relies on a false premise.”
  • A person might dismiss an argument by saying, “That’s a fallacious claim, there’s no evidence to support it.”

23. Delusional

Refers to a person who holds beliefs or ideas that are not based in reality. It often implies a level of irrationality or detachment from the truth.

  • For example, “He is delusional if he thinks he can become a millionaire overnight.”
  • In a conversation, one might say, “You’re being delusional if you think everyone will agree with you.”
  • A person might describe someone’s behavior as, “She’s acting delusional, thinking she can control everything.”

24. Unsubstantial

Describes something that is insubstantial or lacking in substance. It refers to ideas, arguments, or claims that are weak or flimsy.

  • For instance, “The evidence presented in court was unsubstantial and didn’t support the prosecution’s case.”
  • In a discussion, one might say, “Your argument is unsubstantial because it doesn’t address the main issue.”
  • A person might express doubt by saying, “That theory seems unsubstantial, I need more evidence to believe it.”

25. Quixotic

Refers to a person or idea that is extremely idealistic or romantic, but not realistic or practical. It often implies a sense of naivety or a pursuit of impossible dreams.

  • For example, “His quixotic quest for world peace is admirable but unlikely to succeed.”
  • In a conversation, one might say, “Your plan is quixotic because it ignores the practical challenges.”
  • A person might describe someone’s actions as, “She’s being quixotic, chasing after an impossible dream.”

26. Chimerical

Something that is fanciful or unreal, often used to describe something that exists only in the imagination or is highly unlikely to happen.

  • For example, “His chimerical idea of building a time machine was met with skepticism.”
  • A person might say, “I have chimerical dreams of becoming a famous actor.”
  • In a discussion about mythical creatures, someone might mention, “The chimerical beast is a combination of different animals in Greek mythology.”

27. Illusive

Something that is misleading or difficult to grasp or understand, often used to describe something that seems real or achievable but is actually elusive or deceptive.

  • For instance, “The concept of true happiness can be illusive.”
  • A person might say, “He has an illusive charm that makes it hard to resist him.”
  • In a conversation about magic tricks, someone might comment, “The magician’s illusive sleight of hand left the audience in awe.”

28. Feigned

Something that is pretended or simulated, often used to describe something that is not genuine or sincere.

  • For example, “She feigned surprise when she saw the surprise party.”
  • A person might say, “His feigned enthusiasm for the project was obvious.”
  • In a discussion about acting, someone might mention, “Feigned emotions are a crucial part of an actor’s toolkit.”

29. Misleading

Something that gives a false or distorted impression, often used to describe information or statements that lead to a wrong conclusion.

  • For instance, “The misleading advertisement made false claims about the product.”
  • A person might say, “His misleading comments caused confusion among the audience.”
  • In a conversation about news headlines, someone might comment, “Clickbait titles often use misleading tactics to attract readers.”

30. Unfounded

Something that is not supported by evidence or facts, often used to describe claims or accusations that have no basis in reality.

  • For example, “The rumors of an impending apocalypse were unfounded.”
  • A person might say, “Her unfounded allegations caused damage to his reputation.”
  • In a discussion about scientific theories, someone might mention, “Unfounded claims can hinder the progress of scientific research.”

31. Unauthentic

This term refers to something that is not genuine or authentic. It is often used to describe objects or products that are not the real thing.

  • For example, a person might say, “That designer handbag is unauthentic. It’s a knockoff.”
  • In a discussion about art, someone might comment, “The unauthentic painting was sold for a high price, fooling many collectors.”
  • A user might warn others by saying, “Be careful when buying online. There are many unauthentic sellers out there.”

32. Counterfeit

This term is used to describe something that is made to look like the real thing, but is actually an imitation or fake. It is often used in reference to counterfeit money, but can also apply to other products.

  • For instance, a person might say, “I accidentally bought a counterfeit watch. It looked real, but it stopped working after a week.”
  • In a discussion about counterfeit goods, someone might comment, “Counterfeit products not only hurt the original brand, but they can also be dangerous for consumers.”
  • A user might warn others by saying, “Always be cautious when buying luxury items online. There are many counterfeit sellers.”

33. Unverified

This term refers to something that has not been confirmed or proven to be true. It is often used to describe information or claims that lack evidence or verification.

  • For example, a person might say, “The rumor about the celebrity’s secret wedding is unverified. There’s no official confirmation.”
  • In a discussion about news articles, someone might comment, “Always check multiple sources to verify information. Unverified reports can be misleading.”
  • A user might caution others by saying, “Don’t believe everything you read online. There’s a lot of unverified information out there.”

34. Specious

This term describes something that appears to be true or valid, but is actually false or misleading. It is often used to describe arguments or reasoning that is deceptive or misleading.

  • For instance, a person might say, “The politician’s specious claims were debunked by fact-checkers.”
  • In a discussion about advertising, someone might comment, “Be wary of specious marketing claims. They often exaggerate the benefits of a product.”
  • A user might warn others by saying, “Don’t fall for specious arguments. Always question the evidence and reasoning behind them.”

35. Unreliable

This term refers to something or someone that cannot be trusted or relied upon. It is often used to describe information, sources, or individuals that are not dependable.

  • For example, a person might say, “That website is unreliable. They often publish inaccurate information.”
  • In a discussion about news sources, someone might comment, “It’s important to fact-check and verify information from unreliable sources.”
  • A user might caution others by saying, “Don’t rely on unreliable sources for important decisions. Seek out trustworthy and credible information.”

36. Unsubstantiated

This term refers to something that is lacking evidence or proof to support its validity or truthfulness.

  • For example, “The conspiracy theory is completely unsubstantiated and should not be taken seriously.”
  • In a scientific debate, someone might say, “The claim made by the researcher is unsubstantiated and needs further investigation.”
  • A journalist might write, “The article is based on unsubstantiated rumors and should be approached with skepticism.”

37. Unconfirmed

This word describes something that has not been officially verified or validated. It implies that the information or claim has not been confirmed as true or accurate.

  • For instance, “The news of the celebrity’s engagement is still unconfirmed.”
  • A person discussing a rumor might say, “I heard an unconfirmed report that the company is going bankrupt.”
  • A journalist might write, “The reports of a new product launch are still unconfirmed by the company.”

38. Unattainable

This term describes something that is not possible to achieve or obtain. It suggests that the desired outcome or goal is beyond reach.

  • For example, “The perfect body portrayed in the magazine is unattainable for most people.”
  • A person discussing their dreams might say, “Becoming a millionaire overnight is unattainable.”
  • A motivational speaker might encourage their audience by saying, “Don’t let anyone tell you that your dreams are unattainable.”

39. Unconvincing

This word describes something that fails to persuade or convince. It suggests that the argument or evidence presented is not strong enough to support the claim or change someone’s opinion.

  • For instance, “The defendant’s alibi was unconvincing and did not hold up in court.”
  • A movie critic might write, “The actor’s performance was unconvincing and lacked emotion.”
  • A person reviewing a product might say, “The marketing claims are unconvincing and exaggerated.”

40. Unproven

This term refers to something that has not been proven or demonstrated to be true or valid. It suggests that the claim or statement lacks sufficient evidence or support.

  • For example, “The new treatment is still unproven and requires further research.”
  • A person discussing a controversial theory might say, “The claims made by the author are unproven and lack scientific evidence.”
  • A scientist might state, “The hypothesis is unproven and needs to be tested through controlled experiments.”

41. Unfathomable

Something that is difficult to understand or comprehend. “Unfathomable” is used to describe something that is beyond normal comprehension or belief.

  • For example, “The complexity of the human brain is unfathomable.”
  • A person might say, “The amount of money he spends on luxury items is unfathomable to me.”
  • In a discussion about the vastness of the universe, one might say, “The size of the universe is truly unfathomable.”

42. Unwarranted

Something that is not justified or necessary. “Unwarranted” is used to describe something that is excessive or unnecessary.

  • For instance, “His angry outburst was unwarranted considering the situation.”
  • A person might say, “The criticism she received was unwarranted and hurtful.”
  • In a discussion about privacy, one might argue, “Government surveillance of innocent citizens is unwarranted.”

43. Unjustified

Something that lacks a valid reason or explanation. “Unjustified” is used to describe something that is not justified or fair.

  • For example, “His punishment was unjustified given the circumstances.”
  • A person might say, “The company’s decision to lay off employees was unjustified.”
  • In a discussion about discrimination, one might argue, “Racial profiling is unjustified and perpetuates systemic racism.”

44. Unreasonable

Something that is not reasonable or rational. “Unreasonable” is used to describe something that is excessive or unfair.

  • For instance, “Her demands were unreasonable and impossible to meet.”
  • A person might say, “The price of the product is unreasonable for its quality.”
  • In a discussion about work-life balance, one might argue, “The expectation to work long hours without adequate compensation is unreasonable.”

45. Unthinkable

Something that is difficult or impossible to imagine or believe. “Unthinkable” is used to describe something that is beyond what is considered possible or acceptable.

  • For example, “The idea of going to war is unthinkable to me.”
  • A person might say, “The thought of losing a loved one is unthinkable.”
  • In a discussion about ethics, one might argue, “Torture is morally unthinkable and should never be justified.”

46. Unimaginable

This word is used to describe something that is difficult or impossible to imagine or comprehend.

  • For example, “The scale of destruction caused by the natural disaster was unimaginable.”
  • A person might say, “The amount of money he spent on that luxury car is unimaginable to me.”
  • In a discussion about technological advancements, one might say, “The possibilities for the future are unimaginable.”

47. Unintelligible

This term is used to describe something that is difficult or impossible to understand or make sense of.

  • For instance, “The audio recording was so distorted that it became unintelligible.”
  • A person might say, “His handwriting is completely unintelligible.”
  • In a conversation about a foreign language, one might say, “At first, the language was unintelligible to me, but with practice, I started understanding it.”

48. Fake news

This term refers to false or misleading information presented as news. It is often used to describe the spread of misinformation through media platforms.

  • For example, “Many people believe that fake news played a role in influencing the outcome of the election.”
  • A person might say, “Be careful not to share fake news without verifying its authenticity.”
  • In a discussion about media literacy, one might say, “Teaching students how to identify fake news is an important skill.”

49. Faux

This word is used to describe something that is made to look like or resemble something else, but is not genuine or real.

  • For instance, “She wore a faux fur coat to the event.”
  • A person might say, “The restaurant serves faux meat options for vegetarians.”
  • In a conversation about interior design, one might say, “Faux finishes can give a room an elegant and luxurious look.”

50. Hoax

This term refers to a deliberate act of deception or trickery, often intended to fool or deceive people.

  • For example, “The viral video turned out to be a hoax created for publicity.”
  • A person might say, “Don’t believe everything you see on the internet, it could be a hoax.”
  • In a discussion about urban legends, one might say, “The story of the haunted house turned out to be a hoax.”

51. Synthetic

Synthetic refers to something that is not real or genuine. It is often used to describe artificial or man-made materials or substances.

  • For example, a person might say, “Her hair looks so natural, I didn’t realize it was synthetic.”
  • In a discussion about food ingredients, someone might ask, “Does this product contain any synthetic additives?”
  • A person might comment on a piece of artwork, “I prefer paintings with real textures rather than synthetic ones.”

52. Inauthentic

Inauthentic is a term used to describe something that is not genuine or true to its nature. It often refers to people or things that are pretending to be something they are not.

  • For instance, a person might say, “His smile seems inauthentic, like he’s hiding something.”
  • In a conversation about social media, someone might comment, “There are so many inauthentic accounts and fake followers.”
  • A person might criticize a politician, saying, “His speeches feel inauthentic and rehearsed.”

53. Invalid

Invalid refers to something that is not valid or legally binding. It is often used to describe documents, contracts, or arguments that are not supported by evidence or facts.

  • For example, a person might say, “Your driver’s license is expired, so it’s invalid.”
  • In a debate, someone might challenge an opponent’s claim, saying, “Your argument is based on invalid assumptions.”
  • A person might comment on a news article, “This source is known for spreading invalid information.”

54. Incorrect

Incorrect means that something is not correct or accurate. It is a general term used to describe information, statements, or actions that are not true or right.

  • For instance, a person might say, “The answer you provided is incorrect.”
  • In a discussion about a movie plot, someone might point out, “The summary you read is incorrect, it completely misses the main twist.”
  • A person might correct someone’s statement, saying, “Actually, your assumption is incorrect, let me clarify.”

55. Dubious

Dubious refers to something that is doubtful or questionable. It is often used to describe situations, claims, or actions that are suspicious or lacking credibility.

  • For example, a person might say, “I find his explanation for being late very dubious.”
  • In a conversation about a new product, someone might comment, “The claims made by the company seem dubious, I would be cautious before buying.”
  • A person might express skepticism, saying, “The source of this information seems dubious, I would look for more reliable sources.”

56. Fallacy

A fallacy is a mistaken belief or reasoning that is based on incorrect information or flawed logic. It is an error in thinking or argumentation that can lead to incorrect conclusions or beliefs.

  • For example, “The fallacy of ad hominem attacks involves attacking the person making an argument rather than addressing the argument itself.”
  • In a discussion about politics, one might point out, “The fallacy of false equivalence is when two opposing viewpoints are presented as equally valid, even if one is supported by evidence and the other is not.”
  • A critical thinker might say, “It’s important to recognize logical fallacies in order to evaluate arguments and avoid being misled.”

57. Quackery

Quackery refers to the promotion or use of medical treatments or remedies that are not supported by scientific evidence or proven to be effective. It often involves false claims and deception in order to exploit people’s health concerns or vulnerabilities.

  • For instance, “The sale of snake oil as a cure-all is a classic example of quackery.”
  • In a discussion about alternative medicine, one might argue, “Many forms of alternative medicine lack scientific evidence and can be considered quackery.”
  • A skeptical person might say, “It’s important to be cautious of quackery and seek evidence-based medical treatments.”

58. Charlatan

A charlatan is a person who pretends to have knowledge, skills, or abilities that they do not actually possess. They often use deception and manipulation to gain personal benefits or exploit others.

  • For example, “The self-proclaimed psychic turned out to be a charlatan who was just trying to scam people.”
  • In a discussion about con artists, one might say, “A skilled charlatan can easily deceive unsuspecting victims.”
  • A person warning others might say, “Beware of charlatans who promise quick and easy solutions to complex problems.”

59. Misinformation

Misinformation refers to false or inaccurate information that is spread, often unintentionally, through various channels such as social media, news outlets, or word of mouth. It can lead to misunderstandings, confusion, and the perpetuation of false beliefs.

  • For instance, “The spread of misinformation about vaccines has led to a decrease in vaccination rates.”
  • In a discussion about media literacy, one might argue, “Teaching critical thinking skills can help combat the spread of misinformation.”
  • A person debunking a myth might say, “Let me provide you with accurate information to counter the misinformation you’ve heard.”

60. Disinformation

Disinformation refers to false or misleading information that is intentionally spread with the purpose of deceiving or manipulating others. It is often used as a tactic in propaganda, warfare, or political campaigns.

  • For example, “The government’s disinformation campaign aimed to manipulate public opinion.”
  • In a discussion about online misinformation, one might say, “The spread of disinformation poses a significant challenge in the digital age.”
  • A person warning about the dangers of disinformation might say, “Be critical of the information you consume and verify its credibility to avoid falling victim to disinformation tactics.”

61. Smoke screen

This refers to a tactic used to distract or deceive someone by creating a cloud of smoke or confusion. It is often used metaphorically to describe a situation where someone is trying to divert attention or hide their true intentions.

  • For instance, a politician might create a smoke screen by bringing up a controversial topic to distract from their own scandals.
  • In a debate, one might accuse their opponent of using a smoke screen to avoid addressing the main issue.
  • A journalist might write, “The company’s statement seemed like a smoke screen to hide their involvement in the scandal.”

62. Straw man

This refers to a fallacious argument or debate tactic where someone misrepresents their opponent’s position in order to make it easier to attack. It involves creating a weak or exaggerated version of the opposing argument and then attacking that instead of addressing the actual argument.

  • For example, “He set up a straw man by claiming that anyone who supports gun control wants to take away all guns.”
  • In a political discussion, one might accuse their opponent of using a straw man argument to avoid addressing the real issues.
  • A writer might explain, “Using a straw man is a common tactic in political debates because it allows one to easily discredit their opponent.”

63. Trojan horse

This refers to a strategy or tactic where someone disguises something or someone as harmless or beneficial, but it actually contains hidden or malicious intentions. The term comes from the story of the Trojan War, where the Greeks used a giant wooden horse to infiltrate the city of Troy.

  • For instance, a computer virus that appears to be a harmless file or program but actually contains malware is often referred to as a Trojan horse.
  • In a business context, one might say, “The new CEO seemed friendly at first, but turned out to be a Trojan horse for corporate restructuring.”
  • A security expert might warn, “Be careful when downloading files from unknown sources, as they could contain Trojan horses.”

64. Smoke signal

This refers to a method of communication used by indigenous peoples where smoke is used to send signals and convey messages over long distances. It is often used metaphorically to describe a situation where someone is trying to send a message or signal, especially when it is subtle or indirect.

  • For example, “His eye contact with her across the room was like a smoke signal, conveying his interest.”
  • In a political context, one might say, “The president’s tweet was a smoke signal to his supporters.”
  • A writer might use the phrase to describe a subtle hint or clue, such as, “The character’s mysterious smile was a smoke signal that something was not as it seemed.”

65. Paper tiger

This refers to something or someone that appears to be powerful or threatening, but is actually weak or ineffective. The term comes from the Chinese phrase “zhilaohu,” which means a tiger made of paper.

  • For instance, a country with a large military but outdated equipment might be considered a paper tiger.
  • In a sports context, one might say, “The opposing team talked a big game, but turned out to be a paper tiger.”
  • A writer might use the phrase to describe a character or organization that initially seems formidable but is ultimately easily defeated.
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66. Potemkin village

This term refers to a fake or deceptive construction or display that is meant to deceive others into thinking that something is better or more impressive than it actually is. The term originates from the story of Grigory Potemkin, who allegedly built fake villages along the route that Catherine the Great was traveling to impress her.

  • For example, a journalist might write, “The new luxury apartment complex turned out to be a Potemkin village, with cheap materials and shoddy construction hidden behind an impressive facade.”
  • In a political context, one might say, “The government’s promises of progress turned out to be nothing more than Potemkin villages, with no real improvements for the people.”
  • A person discussing a staged event might comment, “The whole thing was just a Potemkin village, designed to create the illusion of success.”

67. Mirage

A mirage is a visual phenomenon that occurs when light is refracted or bent due to temperature differences in the air, creating the illusion of an object or body of water that is not actually there. It is often seen in deserts or on hot pavement.

  • For instance, a traveler might say, “In the distance, I saw a mirage of a shimmering oasis, but it disappeared when I got closer.”
  • In a metaphorical sense, one might say, “The idea of a perfect society is just a mirage, an unattainable illusion.”
  • A person discussing deception might say, “His promises were like a mirage, appearing real and promising but ultimately disappearing.”

68. Hallucination

A hallucination is a perception of something that is not actually present, often involving seeing or hearing things that are not there. Hallucinations can be caused by various factors, including mental health conditions, drug use, or sleep deprivation.

  • For example, a person experiencing hallucinations might say, “I saw a pink elephant in my living room, but I knew it was just a hallucination.”
  • In a medical context, one might say, “Patients with schizophrenia often experience auditory hallucinations, hearing voices that are not real.”
  • A person discussing the effects of drugs might comment, “LSD can cause vivid hallucinations, altering a person’s perception of reality.”

69. Ghost

A ghost is a supposed spirit or soul of a deceased person that appears to the living, typically as a translucent or shadowy figure. Ghosts are often associated with hauntings and paranormal activity.

  • For instance, someone sharing a ghost story might say, “I saw a ghostly figure floating down the hallway late at night.”
  • In a metaphorical sense, one might say, “The memory of her still haunts me like a ghost.”
  • A person discussing supernatural phenomena might comment, “Some believe that ghosts are the spirits of the dead, trapped between the worlds of the living and the afterlife.”

70. Phantom

A phantom is a term used to describe something that appears or is perceived but has no physical reality or substance. It is often used to refer to something that is elusive or difficult to grasp.

  • For example, a person might say, “I felt a phantom pain in my missing limb, even though it was no longer there.”
  • In a metaphorical sense, one might say, “The idea of perfection is just a phantom, always just out of reach.”
  • A person discussing a fleeting feeling might comment, “It was just a phantom of happiness, here one moment and gone the next.”

71. Shadow

A shadow is a dark area or shape produced by an object blocking the light. In slang, it can refer to a ghost or spirit that is not real or tangible.

  • For example, someone might say, “I saw a shadow in the corner of my room last night, but when I turned on the light, it was gone.”
  • In a supernatural discussion, a person might claim, “Shadows are often associated with paranormal activity.”
  • A horror movie enthusiast might comment, “The use of shadows in that scene created a sense of suspense and fear.”

72. Specter

A specter is a ghostly or haunting image or apparition. It is often used to describe something that is not real or tangible, but rather a figment of the imagination.

  • For instance, someone might say, “The specter of poverty hangs over the city.”
  • In a metaphorical sense, a person might claim, “The specter of war looms over the region.”
  • A writer might use the term to describe a character, “He was haunted by the specter of his past mistakes.”

73. Apparition

An apparition is a ghostly or supernatural appearance. It is often used to describe something that is not real or tangible, but rather a mysterious or unexplained occurrence.

  • For example, someone might claim, “I saw an apparition floating in the old abandoned house.”
  • In a discussion about paranormal experiences, a person might say, “Many people have reported seeing apparitions in this haunted location.”
  • A writer might use the term to create an eerie atmosphere, “The apparition appeared suddenly, sending chills down her spine.”

74. Illusion

An illusion is something that deceives or misleads the senses, often creating a false impression of reality. In slang, it can refer to something that is not real or genuine.

  • For instance, someone might say, “The magician created an illusion of levitation.”
  • In a metaphorical sense, a person might claim, “The idea of overnight success is just an illusion.”
  • A skeptic might argue, “The promise of easy money is nothing but an illusion.”

75. Contrived

Contrived refers to something that has been artificially created or fabricated, often lacking authenticity or genuineness. In slang, it can refer to something that is not real or natural.

  • For example, a person might say, “The plot of that movie felt contrived and predictable.”
  • In a discussion about relationships, someone might claim, “Their love seemed contrived, like they were trying too hard.”
  • A critic might argue, “The dialogue in that play felt contrived and forced.”

76. Nonexistent

This term refers to something that does not exist or is not real. It is used to describe something that is completely imaginary or lacking existence.

  • For example, “The unicorn is a nonexistent creature.”
  • In a discussion about conspiracy theories, one might say, “The evidence for the existence of aliens is nonexistent.”
  • Someone might use this term to describe a rumor or gossip that has no basis in reality, saying, “That story about the celebrity is completely nonexistent.”