Faint and Feint

Commonly Confused Words

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The boy feints a pass toward the left side of the field. (Yuri/Getty Images)

The words faint and feint are homophones: they sound alike but have different meanings.

Definitions

As both a noun and a verb, faint refers to a brief loss of consciousness. As an adjective, faint means lacking in strength, conviction, clarity, or brightness.

The noun feint refers to a mock attack or deceptive action meant to divert attention from one's real purpose. As a verb, feint means to confuse an opponent by making a distracting or deceptive movement.

Examples

  • "He walked cheerfully down to the car and then felt everything go dark. He realized that he must be about to faint and lowered himself to the ground beside his car."
    (Maeve Binchy, Echoes, 1985)
     
  • "Des flew at him like a demon, kicking out at Bob's legs as the big man raised the poker and thrashed him, blow after blow, until he fell down in a faint."
    (Leah Fleming, The Postcard. Simon & Schuster, 2014)
  • "A faint breeze set the black leaves of the trees to whispering as Abby picked her way through the gardens behind the hotel."
    (Emily Chenoweth, Hello Goodbye. Random House, 2009)
     
  • "It is late in the fall, although it is still warm here in Texas, and the faint sounds of football practice drift in through the open window."
    (Mary Ladd Gavell, "The Rotifer." I Cannot Tell a Lie, Exactly and Other Stories. Random House, 2001)
     
  • "Fezzik let the man in black fiddle around for a bit, tested the man's strength, which was considerable for someone who wasn't a giant. He let the man in black feint and dodge and try a hold here, a hold there."
    (William Goldman, The Princess Bride. Harcourt, 1973)


    Idiom Alerts

    • Damn With Faint Praise
      The idiom damn (someone or something) with faint praise means to criticize or condemn indirectly by praising an insignificant quality or expressing only slight or half-hearted approval. 
      "The wedding was due to take place on Thursday, 26th April, 1923. On Friday, 20th April, Elizabeth's trousseau was shown to the press. They were so dumbstruck by the dullness of the offerings that even The Times, that paean of praise to the Establishment, damned with faint praise, merely commenting on the 'simplicity' of the dresses and listing the colours, each one duller than the one before."
      (Lady Colin Campbell, The Queen Mother: The Untold Story of Elizabeth Bowes Lyon, Who Became Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. St. Martin's Press, 2012)
       
    • Faint of Heart
      The expression faint of heart refers to people who are easily upset or disturbed by a challenging activity. 
      "My birthday gift to myself for the last couple of years has been a week of silence at a Vipassana meditation retreat. Being silent for a week, and trying to empty your mind of thought, is not for the faint of heart, but I do wish that everyone could try it at least once."
      (Moshe Bar, "Think Less, Think Better." The New York Times, June 17, 2016)
       


    Practice

    (a) "A jet soared overhead in the darkness, and somewhere in the distance, the _____ sound of rippling waves from Birchwater Pond indicated an incoming breeze."
    (Yasmine Galenorn, Dragon Wytch. Berkley, 2008)

    (b) He scooted past the defender with a sly _____ and then kicked the ball into the net from seven yards.

    (c) "They had seen her cry before, but they had never seen her _____."
    (Edith Nesbit, The Railway Children, 1906)

    Answers to Practice Exercises

    Glossary of Usage: Index of Commonly Confused Words

    Answers to Practice Exercises: Faint and Feint

    (a) "A jet soared overhead in the darkness, and somewhere in the distance, the faint sound of rippling waves from Birchwater Pond indicated an incoming breeze."
    (Yasmine Galenorn, Dragon Wytch. Berkley, 2008)

    (b) He scooted past the defender with a sly feint and then kicked the ball into the net from seven yards.

    (c) "They had seen her cry before, but they had never seen her faint."
    (Edith Nesbit, The Railway Children, 1906)

    Glossary of Usage: Index of Commonly Confused Words