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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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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.



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.


  • (wrestling fakery): work


  • (wrestling fakery): shoot

Derived termsEdit


kayfabe (not comparable)

  1. (professional wrestling) Of or related to kayfabe, especially forbidden to mention or show in order to maintain kayfabe.
    • 2002, Jerry Lawler & al., It's Good to Be the King... Sometimes, →ISBN, p. 81:
      A while back, many of the things we talk about in this book would have been kayfabe. But I think it's been a good thing for wrestling that this isn't the case anymore. […] If wrestling people had kept trying to convince fans that everything was absolutely real, then it would have been an insult to the fans' intelligence.
    • 2006, Eldridge Wayne Coleman & al., Tangles Ropes, →ISBN, p. 143:
      The guy was completely paranoid—a total kayfabe maniac.
    • 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.



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.