Catfish Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How to Use It

Did you know that the word catfish has more than one meaning? Yup, it’s true — read on to discover the meaning of catfish and more.

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If you’ve been talking to someone via the internet for quite some time, chances are you may have exchanged a photo or two. After all, you want to know who you’re chatting with, right? 

But what if, after agreeing to meet face-to-face, you realize the individual that you’ve been exchanging pics with looks nothing like the person in the photos? Well, we hate to break it to you, but it sounds like you got catfished.   

Interested in learning more about the term catfish? You’re in the right place! Read on as we explore this trendy word to uncover its definition, origin, and more. 

What Does Catfish Mean?

Despite what many people may think, a catfish isn’t just a fish with whiskers. It’s a word that describes a person who pretends to be someone else online. These sneaky impersonators often use fake photos and sometimes even a false persona to find friends or romantic partners on the internet. Let’s take a look at a few definitions of catfish:

  • According to, catfish is a slang term that refers to an individual who assumes a false identity or personality, especially on social media websites, as to deceive, manipulate, or swindle. 
  • The English Oxford Dictionary defines catfish as luring someone into a relationship by means of a fictional persona.  
  • Macmillan Dictionary’s definition of catfish is to trick a person into having an online relationship by adopting a fake identity. 

After reviewing each definition listed above, we can conclude that catfish is a trendy word for a situation where a user is impersonating someone else online or in some digital interaction.  

What Is the Origin of Catfish?

A slang word for creating fake profiles on social media to create false identities, “catfishing” became popular because of the MTV show Catfish — based on the 2010 documentary Catfish ˆ— co-hosted by Nev Schulman and Max Joseph. The viral TV show Catfish investigates catfishing cases, often revealing a catfish’s true identity at the end of an episode. 

That said, although the term became quite trendy within the last decade, the notion of “catfish” associated with a fake persona comes from a Christian parable from the early 1990s. 

Examples of Catfish in a Sentence

Now that you understand what catfish means and where it originated, let’s review a few usage examples:

I got catfished last weekend by a guy who said his name was Megan.

When we finally met IRL, I discovered that I had been catfished.

Catfishing is a pretty big phenomenon that rose out of social media not too long ago.

To make sure you don’t get catfished on any of the dating sites, always compare profile pictures with pictures on Instagram and Facebook.

When meeting people online, always ask to do a video chat to reduce your risk of getting catfished.

If he said he lives in Alaska and his birthday is in June, but I discovered he actually lives in Mexico and has a September birthday. Do you think i’m getting catfished?

He catfished her in an attempt to get financial gain.

Did you ever see that movie called Catfished?

I found out Angela catfished me after locating her Twitter and realizing she’s from Asia.

If you ask me, catfishing is such an annoying scam.

I am starting to think my girlfriend is a catfish because I’ve never met her in person, and she keeps making excuses for why she can’t come over.

When your entire relationship is a hoax, you are a victim of catfishing.

After getting catfished, I am pretty apprehensive about downloading another dating app.

I heard catfishing happens frequently when you do a lot of online dating.

Joe was catfished by the woman’s husband when he stayed in North America last year.

What Is an Example of Catfishing?

One of the earliest examples of catfishing involves Manti Te’o — a linebacker for Notre Dame. In 2013, it was discovered that the star football player’s online girlfriend, who went by the name Lennay Kekua was a catfish named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo. 

The hoax ultimately led Te’o to believe that his “girlfriend” had died of leukemia shortly after the real-life death of his grandmother. Millions of people gravitated toward the story of love and loss — if only the story had been true.  

Despite severely affecting an individual’s life, there are no specific laws against catfishing. It is possible, however, for the victim to bring the catfish to justice by proving fraud, defamation of character, emotional distress, or harassment.


When you hear the word catfish, you may conjure up images of fishermen in your head, but the term also refers to someone who creates fake profiles online to trick people into thinking they are somebody else. It’s most common on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, as well as dating apps like Tinder. 

If you find yourself in a situation that seems like catfishing, don’t panic — simply make copies of all your communications and report them to the social media provider as soon as possible. 


  1. CATFISH (verb) definition and synonyms | Macmillan Dictionary 
  2. CATFISH English Definition and Meaning |
  3. Catfish Definition & Meaning |
  4. Manti Te’o admits dead girlfriend never existed, claims he’s a victim of ‘catfishing’ | The World from PRX