of unknown origin; attested in London criminal slang as adjective (1775, "counterfeit"), verb (1812, "to rob"), and noun (1851, "a swindle;" of persons 1888, "a swindler"), but probably older. A likely source is feague "to spruce up by artificial means," from German fegen "polish, sweep," also "to clear out, plunder" in colloquial use. "Much of our early thieves' slang is Ger. or Du., and dates from the Thirty Years' War" [Weekley]. Or it may be from Latin facere "to do." Century Dictionary notes that "thieves' slang is shifting and has no history."

The nautical word meaning "one of the windings of a cable or hawser in a coil" probably is unrelated, from Swedish veck "a fold." As a verb, "to feign, simulate" from 1941. To fake it is from 1915, jazz slang; to fake (someone) out is from 1940s, originally in sports. Related: Faked; fakes; faking. The jazz musician's fake book is attested from 1951.