How To Pronounce “Faux”

faux.002I’VE never ever heard of a fox Christmas tree, but I did the day my student and I sat down to craft an opening paragraph for his essay on a family tradition that meant a lot to him. We singled out two—the Hungry Ghost Festival and Vesak Day—and ended up going for the latter.

Our essay, On Vesak Day, Feasting and Offerings In Abundance, opened with a quick mention of the Chinese New Year and Christmas, a festive season we felt could lend a nice contrast to the less commercial, more meditative Vesak Day, though by no means less celebratory. To show how Christmas was more low-key compared to Vesak Day, we wrote this line:

Since we are not Christians, Christmas is not our thing, other than a huge faux Christmas tree gracing our living room and Yuletide decorations of mistletoes and poinsettias by the patio.

“A huge fox Christmas tree,” he read aloud before blurting out, “What’s fox?”

“That’s pronounced like foe,” I said.

Then we consulted Oxford:

faux |foʊ| (adj)
made in imitation; artificial: a string of faux pearls | a faux-fur jacket.
・not genuine; fake or false: their faux concern for the well-being of the voters didn’t fool many.

Yes, it is French. The “x” is silent. It literally means “false” in French. Think foe or foh, and you’d be pronouncing it perfectly.

Here are three more words you can add to your vocabulary built around faux:

1. fauxhawk |ˈfoʊˌhɔk| (n) (also faux-hawk)
a hairstyle in which a section of hair running from the front to the back of the head stands erect, intended to resemble a Mohawk haircut (in which the sides of the head are shaved): the opening drew a primarily male audience sporting ironic T-shirts and fauxhawks.

early 21st century: blend of faux and Mohawk


2a. faux-naïf |ˌfoʊnɑˈif| (adj) (also faux naïf, faux-naif)
・(of a work of art or a person) artificially or affectedly simple or naive: faux-naif pastoralism.

2b. faux-naïf (n)
・a person who pretends to be ingenuous: the old device of a faux naif observing his own country as a foreigner.

mid 20th century: from French faux ‘false’ + naïf ‘naive.’


3. faux pas |ˌfoʊ ˈpɑ| (n) (plural, same)
an embarrassing or tactless act or remark in a social situation.

late 17th century: French, literally ‘false step.’

foh-PAH (The ‘s’ on ‘pas’ is silent)

I invite you to write to me at if you have any word ideas you’d like to share.


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