• IPA: /ˈfæ

fancy (plural fancies)

  1. The imagination.
    • 1674, John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book 5, lines 100-103,[]
      […] But know that in the soul
      Are many lesser faculties, that serve
      Reason as chief; among these Fancy next
      Her office holds […]
    • 1842, Alfred Tennyson, Locksley Hall
      In the Spring a livelier iris changes on the burnish’d dove; / In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.
    • 1861, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, “A New Counterblast” in Atlantic Monthly, December 1861, p. 700,
      Rustic females who habitually chew even pitch or spruce-gum are rendered thereby so repulsive that the fancy refuses to pursue the horror farther and imagine it tobacco […]
  2. An image or representation of anything formed in the mind.
    Synonyms: conception, thought, idea
    • c. 1605, William Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act III, Scene 2,
      How now, my lord! why do you keep alone,
      Of sorriest fancies your companions making,
      Using those thoughts which should indeed have died
      With them they think on?
  3. An opinion or notion formed without much reflection.
    Synonyms: impression
    • 1650, John Bulwer, Anthropometamorphosis: Man Transform’d, 2nd edition, London, 1653, Epistle Dedicatory, pp. 2-3,
      When you have well viewed the Scenes and Devillish shapes of this Practicall Metamorphosis, and scan’d them in your serious thoughts, you will wonder at their audacious phant’sies, who seeme to hold Specificall deformities, or that any part can seeme unhandsome in their Eyes, which hath appeared good and beautifull unto their Maker […]
    • 1693, John Locke, Some Thoughts Concerning Education, 13th edition, London, 1764, §148, p. 222,
      I have always had a Fancy, that Learning might be made a Play and Recreation to Children […]
  4. A whim.
    Synonyms: Thesaurus:whim
    I had a fancy to learn to play the flute.
  5. Love or amorous attachment.
    Synonyms: Thesaurus:predilection
    He took a fancy to her.
  6. The object of inclination or liking.
    • c. 1595, William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act I, Scene 1,
      For you, fair Hermia, look you arm yourself
      To fit your fancies to your father’s will;
  7. Any sport or hobby pursued by a group.
    Synonyms: hobby, Thesaurus:hobby
    Trainspotting is the fancy of a special lot.
    the cat fancy
  8. The enthusiasts of such a pursuit.
    Synonyms: Thesaurus:fan
    He fell out of favor with the boxing fancy after the incident.
    • 1830, Thomas De Quincey, “Review of Life of Richard Bentley, D.D. by J.H. Monk, D.D.” in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 28, No. 171, September 1830, p. 446, footnote,
      […] at a great book sale in London, which had congregated all the Fancy, on a copy occurring, not one of the company but ourself knew what the mystical title-page meant.
  9. A diamond with a distinctive colour.
  10. That which pleases or entertains the taste or caprice without much use or value.
    • 18th century, John Mortimer, The Whole Art of Husbandry; or, The Way of Managing and Improving Land, cited in Samuel Johnson, A Dictionary of the English Language, 1755,
      London-pride is a pretty fancy, and does well for borders.
  11. (obsolete) A sort of love song or light impromptu ballad.
    • c. 1596–1599, William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part 2, Act III, Scene 2,
      [He] sung those tunes to the overscutch’d huswifes that he heard the carmen whistle, and sware they were his fancies or his good-nights.
  12. In the game of jacks, a style of play involving additional actions (contrasted with plainsies).
    • 1970, Marta Weigle, Follow my fancy: the book of jacks and jack games (page 22)
      When you have mastered plainsies, the regular jack game, and have learned all the rules, you will be ready to use this part of the book. A fancy is a variation of plainsies which usually requires more skill than plainsies does.
    • 2002, Elizabeth Dana Jaffe, Sherry L. Field, Linda D. Labbo, Jacks (page 26)
      When you get good at jacks, try adding a fancy. A fancy is an extra round at the end of a game. It makes the game a little harder. Jack Be Nimble, Around the World, or Black Widow are some fancies.
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fancy (comparative fancier, superlative fanciest)

  1. Decorative.
    Synonyms: decorative, ornate
    Antonyms: plain, simple
    This is a fancy shawl.
  2. Of a superior grade.
    Synonyms: high-end
    This box contains bottles of the fancy grade of jelly.
  3. Executed with skill.
    He initiated the game winning play with a fancy, deked saucer pass to the winger.
  4. (colloquial) Unnecessarily complicated.
    Synonyms: highfalutin
    Antonyms: simple
    I'm not keen on him and his fancy ideas.
  5. (obsolete) Extravagant; above real value.
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fancy (not comparable)

  1. (nonstandard) In a fancy manner; fancily.


  1. (formal) To appreciate without jealousy or greed.
    I fancy your new car, but I like my old one just fine.
  2. (British) would like
    Synonyms: feel like
    I fancy a burger tonight for dinner.
    Do you fancy going to town this weekend?
  3. (British, informal) To be sexually attracted to.
    Synonyms: like
    I fancy that girl over there.
  4. (dated) To imagine, suppose.
    I fancy you'll want something to drink after your long journey.
    Fancy meeting you here!
    Fancy that! I saw Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy kissing in the garden.
    • a. 1705, John Locke, “Of the Conduct of the Understanding”, in Posthumous Works of Mr. John Locke: […], London: […] A[wnsham] and J[ohn] Churchill, […], published 1706, OCLC 6963663 ↗:
      If our search has reached no farther than simile and metaphor, we rather fancy than know.
    • 1857-1859, William Makepeace Thackeray, The Virginians
      He fancied he was welcome, because those around him were his kinsmen.
    • 1895, H. G. Wells, The Time Machine Chapter X
      I fancied at first the stuff was paraffin wax, and smashed the jar accordingly. But the odor of camphor was unmistakable.
  5. To form a conception of; to portray in the mind.
    Synonyms: imagine
    • he whom I fancy, but can ne'er express
  6. To have a fancy for; to like; to be pleased with, particularly on account of external appearance or manners.
    • 1591, William Shakespeare, “The Second Part of Henry the Sixt, […]”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies (First Folio), London: Printed by Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358 ↗, [Act I, scene iii]:
      We fancy not the cardinal.
  7. (transitive) To breed (animals) as a hobby.
    • 1973, American Pigeon Journal (page 159)
      I would recommend this little book very highly to anyone who fancies pigeons, novices and veterans alike.
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