Catfishing Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How To Use It

Catfishing is one of the most frustrating things in the modern world. Here is catfishing’s meaning and how you can avoid it at all costs.

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The world of social media and online dating has brought a lot of good things along with it. But in the same way, there are many things about creating online relationships that can be a little sketchy IRL. While there are all kinds of red flags that you can look out for, the reality is that technology has made it incredibly easy to hide who a person is and create a false identity on social networking sites. You may know this as catfishing.

Catfishing is one of the most common yet most frustrating romance scams on dating apps and social media sites. While it is something that makes a good television show and podcast, the reality is that getting catfished is devastating. 

This is what catfishing is, how it works in the modern world, and how to make sure you don’t become a victim of catfishing yourself. 

What Is Catfishing? 

According to modern uses of the term catfish, catfishing is the process of creating a fictional online identity and luring someone into a relationship using it. This most commonly happens on dating websites and apps like Tinder and Hinge and social media accounts like Instagram and Facebook. 

The whole idea is based on making a dating profile or social media account that seems as authentic as possible. It will often use false profile pictures and names to cover up the person’s true identity in real life. The catfisher will then interact with various people using that fake identity, often developing a relationship with them to extract money, gain attention, or even be cruel. 

Over time, this process has accrued a reasonably significant interest from people looking for drama. MTV created one of the most prominent examples of catfishing shows, aptly called Catfish: The TV Show. The documentary Catfish is another piece of media that shows how much harm someone with a fake account can do. In many cases, catfishing is seen as cyberbullying and intense cruelty towards another person. 

How Can I Avoid Catfishing? 

While catfishing is a significant problem today, it is still something that you can avoid with a few helpful strategies. 

First, if you’re using dating apps or online relationship-building websites, do your best to meet up in person or do a video call as soon as it is appropriate. Of course, don’t rush things — and make sure to meet up in a public and safe place to make sure that everything is as safe as possible. Especially in online relationships, if the other person is highly averse to meeting up or doing a video chat, those are some pretty significant warning signs. 

Another vital thing to do is research the person once things get serious. That means looking up their other social media accounts, checking their history, and seeing if they have a valid background that doesn’t feel fishy. Most catfishers won’t be thorough enough to build out existing social media accounts going back several years. If those don’t exist, that’s another reasonably significant red flag to keep in mind. 

A final thing to remember is to trust your instincts. As with most relationships (online or in-person), if things feel wrong or the connection doesn’t feel sound, feel free to just let it go. It’s better to cut things off early in the process when you aren’t super connected than to invest days, weeks, or even months of emotions into someone who doesn’t exist. If your gut is telling you something, try to listen to that feeling and stay as objective as possible throughout the dating process. 

Other Definitions for Catfishing

While the modern world largely uses the above definition of catfishing, the word’s original meaning goes way further back. As the word itself may suggest, the original meaning of catfishing has to do with the activity of catching catfish. While some fishermen were better at capturing live cod or other freshwater fish, catfish has always been a famous catch for professionals and amateurs alike. 

This name has been transposed into a new meaning because, according to myth, catfish had a way of keeping other fish active during the shipping process. Even if they weren’t in any danger, putting a catfish in a shipping container with other fish made it so that they wouldn’t just sit around and get pale. While this is essentially a myth, the idea of a “catfish” inciting action despite it not being what the fisherman thought it was is the basis of the word’s current definition. 

Example Sentences Using the Word Catfishing

One of the best ways to learn how to use a word is by seeing it in use in a sentence. The power of context to clarify a definition is incredibly beneficial and essential and can help understand language much more straightforwardly. If you need an example of catfishing being used in a sentence, please read below! 

Angela almost got caught up in a relationship with someone who was probably catfishing her, but she pulled out before anything got too serious. 

In my time using social media apps, I’ve found out asking someone to Facetime you will help alleviate any worries that they might be catfishing you. 

My friend Megan recently got caught up with someone who was catfishing her — it’s been hard, but she’s been getting over it. 


If there are any other words in the English language that you don’t feel super confident about using, feel free to check out our blog here at The Word Counter! We’re always putting up new articles and pieces of information that are created exclusively for people who want to grow in their communication skills. Check out some of our latest articles right here! 


  1. Catfish Definition & Meaning |
  2. CATFISHING | Cambridge English Dictionary
  3. Catfishing Definition | Investopedia