Something that appears elaborate and impressive but in actual fact lacks substance.
A false front or facade.
Origin of potemkin-village
- After Grigori Aleksandrovich Potemkin who is said to have had elaborate fake villages constructed for Catherine the Great's tours of Ukraine and Crimea
From American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition
- Purportedly named for fake settlements erected at the direction of Russian minister Grigori Alexsandrovich Potemkin to fool Empress Catherine II during her visit to Crimea in 1787.