Word Choice: Feint vs. Faint

Although they are pronounced similarly, ‘feint’ and ‘faint’ have different meanings, and one is much more commonly used than the other. Get up to speed with the various meanings of ‘faint’ and ‘feint’ so that you can use them with confidence in your writing.

Feint (Deceptive Movement)

As a verb, ‘feint’ means to make a deceptive movement, especially during sport. For instance, if describing a boxing match, we could say:

John feinted left and then hit him with a right hook.

The word ‘feint’ is also used in a military context, where it describes an attack or manoeuvre designed to trick or distract the enemy:

The cavalry feinted a retreat to draw the enemy army out of its defensive position.

In either context, ‘feint’ can also be used as a noun, whereupon it refers to the act of feinting. For instance:

Beckham kept the ball away from the defender using a clever feint.

In all cases, it is closely linked to the word ‘feign’, which means to deceive or pretend.

Faint (Lose Consciousness)

‘Faint’, as a verb, means to temporarily lose consciousness, such as in:

Upon seeing the blood, Mark fainted from shock.

As a noun, ‘faint’ refers to the act of losing consciousness itself:

He was overcome by the heat and collapsed in a faint.

As an adjective, ‘faint’ can similarly refer to the feeling of light-headedness that precedes losing consciousness, as in:

Before passing out, Diana complained that she was feeling faint.

However, in a different context, the adjective ‘faint’ can also mean ‘dim’, ‘vague’ or difficult to perceive. It would then be used in a sentence like this:

Through the mist, they saw a faint outline of the shore on the horizon.

Relatedly, we can also use ‘faint’ to describe something as feeble or slight:

Despite being brothers, there was only a faint resemblance between them.

Feint or Faint?

‘Feint’ is a less common word than ‘faint, so most of the time it will probably be ‘faint’ you need. However, keep in mind that these terms have distinct meanings, so you should try to avoid mixing them up. Remember these common uses:

Feint (verb or noun) = Deceptive movement

Faint (verb or noun) = Loss of consciousness

Faint (adjective) = Being light-headed, vague or feeble

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