Words sometimes confused: faint and feint by Angela Caldin

Faint and feint are homophones, but they have different meanings.

Faint can be a noun, a verb, and an adjective. As a noun and verb it refers to a brief loss of consciousness. As an adjective, it means lacking in strength, conviction, clarity, or brightness.

  • She turned her ankle so badly on the uneven path that she fell down in a faint. Noun.
  • The shock was so great when the guilty verdict was announced that he fainted. Verb.
  • They were hanging on to the faint hope that there were still people alive under the rubble. Adjective.

Feint can be a noun and a verb. As a noun, it refers to a mock attack or deceptive action meant to divert attention from a real purpose. As a verb, it means to confuse an opponent by making a distracting or deceptive movement.

  • In rugby, players often rely on the feint of passing the ball in one direction while actually passing it in another. Noun.
  • Towards the end of the boxing match, the champion managed to feint a punch at his opponent’s stomach, enabling him to land a vicious blow on his rival’s undefended face. Verb.

An additional use of feint appears in the expression feint-ruled paper which is writing paper with light horizontal lines printed across at regular intervals.

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