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. Fake news "journalism that is deliberately misleading" is attested from 1894; popularized in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.
also hobby-horse, 1550s, "mock horse used in the morris-dance;" 1580s, "child's toy riding horse," from hobby (n.) + horse (n.). Transferred sense of "favorite pastime or avocation" first recorded 1670s (shortened to hobby by 1816). The connecting notion being "activity that doesn't go anywhere."
The hobbyhorse originally was a "Tourney Horse," a wooden or basketwork frame worn around the waist and held on with shoulder straps, with a fake tail and horse head attached, so the wearer appears to be riding a horse. These were part of church and civic celebrations at Midsummer and New Year's throughout England.
late Old English, "intentionally untrue, lying," of religion, "not of the true faith, not in accord with Christian doctrines," from Old French fals, faus "false, fake; incorrect, mistaken; treacherous, deceitful" (12c., Modern French faux), from Latin falsus "deceptive, feigned, deceitful, pretend," also "deceived, erroneous, mistaken," past participle of fallere "deceive, disappoint," which is of uncertain origin (see fail (v.)).
Adopted into other Germanic languages (cognates: German falsch, Dutch valsch, Old Frisian falsk, Danish falsk), though English is the only one in which the active sense of "deceitful" (a secondary sense in Latin) has predominated. From c. 1200 as "deceitful, disloyal, treacherous; not genuine;" from early 14c. as "contrary to fact or reason, erroneous, wrong." False alarm recorded from 1570s. False step (1700) translates French faux pas. To bear false witness is attested from mid-13c. False prophet "one who prophecies without divine commission or by evil spirits," is attested from late 13c.