Is it faint or feint?

Both of these words exist in British English. They do, however, have different meanings and are commonly mixed up.

NB: See note at end about another word: feigned

Faint

This is an adjective which means ‘lacking strength or vigour’, ‘lacking courage’ and ‘timid’. It also means ‘barely perceptible’, ‘dim’ and ‘indistinct’.

This is also a verb which means ‘to fall into a faint’.

Examples:

  • The boy felt faint, after seeing the sight. [adjective]
  • There was a faint noise coming from the room. [adjective]
  • The boy fainted, after seeing the sight. [verb]

Feint

This is a rare noun which means ‘a misleading movement designed to draw defensive action away from an intended objective or target’ or any ‘pretence intended to mislead’.

This is also a verb which means ‘to make a feint’ (as in the noun above).

As a noun, it also means ‘the finest line used in printing ruled paper’ and is a variant of ‘faint’.

Feigned

This is an adjective which means ‘not real’ or ‘simulated’.

Example:

  • The boy’s feigned accent did not cover up the fact that he was Spanish.