kayfabe

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English[edit]

A professional wrestler executing a “dropkick”. The performance requires athleticism and actual blows, but is scripted and intended to minimize serious injury. Kayfabe involves hiding those aspects from the general public.
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Alternative forms[edit]

Etymology[edit]

Unknown, but attributed to US carnival slang ("carny"), usually as a purposefully obscure variant of the admonition "be fake" formed through back slang or mangled pig Latin. Also sometimes attributed to an alteration of cave (Latin for "beware"), keep cavey ("stay alert"), or an eponymous figure named Kay Fabe or Kay Fabian.

Pronunciation[edit]

  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈkeɪfeɪb/
    • (file)
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈkeɪˌfeɪb/
  • Hyphenation: kay‧fabe
  • Rhymes: -eɪfeɪb

Noun[edit]

kayfabe (uncountable)

  1. (professional wrestling) The act, situation, or code of portraying staged events, performances, rivalries, etc as authentic or spontaneous.
    • 2001 April 27, Alex Marvez, "Grappling for the Right Words?", South Florida Sun-Sentinel, p. 44:
      "Jack, Gordon and I were talking about how we heard Ric Flair do an interview where he said there was no such thing as kay-fabe any more," said Blair, referring to the fact most wrestler secrets were exposed in the 1990s.
    • 2006, Eldridge Wayne Coleman & al., Tangled Ropes, →ISBN, p. 143:
      Suddenly, I heard a shout behind me: "Kayfabe! Kayfabe!" It was Gagne, freaking out and twitching and gesturing. He was afraid that some of the marks would see us in such close proximity and wonder why I wasn't choking out Wahoo with the velvet rope leading to the reservation counter, or carving him up with the ticket agent's pen. The thing was that, with the exception of the AWA guys, the terminal was empty.
    • 2013, Saul Lemerond, "Cowboys in Rainbow City", Kayfabe & Other Stories, →ISBN, p. 45:
      I've been breaking kayfabe a lot lately and it's bad, completely unprofessional.
  2. (figuratively) Similar fakery or suspension of disbelief in other contexts.
    • 2013, Eero Laine, "Professional Wrestling" in American History through American Sports, Vol. I, →ISBN, p. 226:
      Business historian Fiona A. E. McQuarrie has noted that the concept of kayfabe is not uncommon outside the realm of professional wrestling, as many corporations "formally require their members to maintain public silence on company issues or not to express any explicit criticism of the company, through such means as employment contracts or through contracts governing severance or termination of employment."
    • 2017 September 29, Jonah Goldberg, "Roy Moore: Gladiator", National Review:
      The Republican brand will be tarnished even more as mainstream media outlets and late-night comedians gleefully broadcast Moore’s asininity to the broader public. But, yeah, sure: It’ll be entertaining for people who now follow politics like it’s one long pro-wrestling kayfabe.

Synonyms[edit]

  • (wrestling fakery): work

Antonyms[edit]

  • (wrestling fakery): shoot

Derived terms[edit]

Adjective[edit]

kayfabe (not comparable)

  1. (professional wrestling) Of or related to kayfabe, especially forbidden to mention or show in order to maintain kayfabe.
    • 2013, Saul Lemerond, "Cowboys in Rainbow City", Kayfabe & Other Stories, →ISBN, pp. 43–4:
      My wife... currently serves as a Florida State Senator... My kayfabe wife has enormous fake breasts, bleach blonde hair, and a nose that is too small for her face.

Synonyms[edit]

Verb[edit]

kayfabe (third-person singular simple present kayfabes, present participle kayfabing, simple past and past participle kayfabed)

  1. (professional wrestling) To maintain kayfabe, to deceive by staying in character.
    • 2006, Eldridge Wayne Coleman & al., Tangles Ropes, →ISBN, p. 97:
      ...Mascaras was never one of the boys. Here's an example: after his matches, he'd shower with his mask on. I understand protecting your image, but the guy was kayfabing us.
    • 2013, Julie Hart, Hart Strings[1], →ISBN, page 54:
      He joked around with me and had me laughing so hard that it was tough not to feel silly about being "kayfabed.

References[edit]