Word Confusion: Faint versus Feint

Posted June 18, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

A faint can be feinted, but a feint can never faint. It can cause them, though!

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end. Consider sharing this Word Confusion with friends by tweeting it.

Faint Feint
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com

A cartoon of a woman straining food with underwear and a woman faints

Image by [CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

A cook using some bloomers to strain food causes a woman to faint.

A sword fight going up the stairs

Image by Strobridge Lithographing Co. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The feint failed as his opponent countered.

Part of Grammar:
Adjective 1, 2; Predicate Adjective 1;
Noun, singular 1; Verb, intransitive 1

Noun plural & third person singular: faints
Past tense or past participle: fainted
Gerund or Present participle: fainting

Variant spelling of feint

Verb, intransitive & transitive

Noun plural & third person singular: feints
Past tense or past participle: feinted
Gerund or Present participle: feinting

Variant spelling of faint

[Of a sight, smell, or sound] Barely perceptible

  • [Of a hope, chance, or possibility] Slight
  • Remote
  • Lacking in strength or enthusiasm; feeble

Predicate Adjective:
Weak and dizzy

Close to losing consciousness

A sudden loss of consciousness

Verb, intransitive:
lose consciousness for a short time because of a temporarily insufficient supply of oxygen to the brain

  • [Archaic] Grow weak or feeble
  • Decline
A deceptive or pretended blow, thrust, or other movement, especially in boxing or fencing

  • A mock attack or movement in warfare, made in order to distract or deceive an enemy

Verb, intransitive:
Make a deceptive or distracting movement, typically during a fight

Verb, transitive:
Make a deceptive or distracting movement, typically during a fight

  • Pretend to throw a punch or blow in order to deceive or distract an opponent
The faint murmur of voices called to me.

There is a faint chance that the enemy may flee.

The faint beat of a butterfly’s wing.

He was damned with faint praise.

Predicate Adjective:
The heat made him feel faint.

She hit the floor in a dead faint.

Verb, intransitive:
The shock was so great that she fainted.

The fires were fainting.

He made a brief feint at the opponent’s face.

That attack will be a feint to draw the enemy out.

The Parthian shot is an example of a feint retreat, where mounted Parthian archers would retreat from a battle, and then while still riding, turn their bodies back to shoot at the pursuing enemy.

His air of approval was a feint to conceal his real motives.

Verb, intransitive:
He feinted left, drawing a punch, and slipping it.

Verb, transitive:
Feinting a left, I bobbed to the right.

Adjective: fainter, faintest, faintish, faintingly
Adverb: faintingly, faintly
Noun: fainter, faintishness
History of the Word:
1 Middle English from the Old French faint. A past participle of faindre.

2 Middle English in the sense of cowardly or surviving in faint heart.

Late 17th century from the French feinte and a past participle used as a noun of feindre meaning feign.

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C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?