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.

Definitions of fake
fake (v.)
make a copy of with the intent to deceive;
he faked the signature
Synonyms: forge / counterfeit
fake (v.)
tamper, with the purpose of deception;
fake (v.)
speak insincerely or without regard for facts or truths;
The politician was not well prepared for the debate and faked it
Synonyms: talk through one's hat / bullshit / bull
fake (n.)
something that is a counterfeit; not what it seems to be;
Synonyms: sham / postiche
fake (n.)
a person who makes deceitful pretenses;
Synonyms: imposter / impostor / pretender / faker / fraud / sham / shammer / pseudo / pseud / role player
fake (n.)
(football) a deceptive move made by a football player;
Synonyms: juke
fake (adj.)
fraudulent; having a misleading appearance;
Synonyms: bogus / phony / phoney / bastard
fake (adj.)
not genuine or real; being an imitation of the genuine article; "it isn't fake anything; it's real synthetic fur";
Synonyms: false / faux / imitation / simulated