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Is there an antonym for lying?

The lyric "You keep lying, when you oughta be truthin'" in "These boots are made for walkin'" made me wonder: does a single word exist which means to speak the truth?

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This is interesting and I've added it to my collection of word opposite pairs for which one has a noun and verb form and the other lacks one of those two (usually the verb). Another great example is that the noun "understanding" has the verb "to understand" whereas the noun "wisdom" has no verb counterpart. While "understanding" and "wisdom" are not traditionally opposites, they are in essence opposing faculties of cognition where the former is rational and the latter based on intuition; it seems that the concepts related to right-brain functionality are more likely to be missing a POS form! –  miercoledi Apr 4 at 2:05
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@miercoledi care to share? –  Pureferret Apr 4 at 9:58
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Fascinating question! I wonder if this says something about our society: we value the truth so strongly that when one is lying he's not actually speaking any longer, but lying. –  ilinamorato Apr 4 at 16:25
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@ilinamorato I think by default any communication is assumed true by most. I am guilty of making this assumption. This may be why an antonym (no longer?) exists. I also think this may be why people often blindly believe what they are told and why critical thinking and skepticism are not as prevalent as I think it ought to be. –  Pete Apr 4 at 16:51
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I would be the wrong person to ask. –  mikeTheLiar Apr 4 at 19:03

10 Answers 10

up vote 24 down vote accepted

There is truthing, to truth (as in the lyrics) but it seems like it is a nonce word or neologism. Though there is a colloquial usage.

Wiktionary mentiones as obsolete:

(obsolete, transitive) To assert as true; to declare.

Had they [the ancients] dreamt this, they would have truthed it heaven. — Ford.

Etymonline says that:

English and most other IE languages do not have a primary verb for for "speak the truth," as a contrast to lie (v.).

You can see example usages in literature and technical books also if you check Google Books. (Note: Some examples may have different senses and gerund form of the word seems more common)

There is a technical usage as "ground truthing" as well.

Furthermore Wikipedia says under "Conversion" article:

Verbification may have a bad reputation with some English users because it is such a potent source of neologisms.

Although some neologistic products of verbification may meet considerable opposition from prescriptivist authorities, they are very common in colloquial speech, particularly specialized jargon, where words are needed to describe common actions or experiences.


Other than that, aver might be a close contender (it has an official and legal connotation):

to verify or prove to be true in pleading a cause

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Thank you for the well researched documented answer. –  Pete Apr 3 at 23:18
    
@Pete Thanks, Pete! –  Elian Apr 3 at 23:41
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I agree that "aver" is in close contention; however, it has a more official and legal connotation than "lying" and thus may be inappropriate if referring to everyday conversation. A closer antonym of "aver" might be "perjure." Or, if you take the meaning of "aver" as a proof or corroboration to an existing statement, "deny." Either way, not strictly "lie." –  ilinamorato Apr 4 at 16:23
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Verbification? Don't you mean verbing? –  Patrick M Apr 4 at 17:49
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@ilinamorato: Thanks, I edited my answer as well. –  ermanen Apr 4 at 18:39

That's an interesting question. I don't think I've ever come across a pure single-word antonym for 'liar' or 'to lie'. The closest I can give are near-antonyms which serve more to corroborate with existing truths, like attest, validate or testify.

A little bit of research seems to indicate that there is in fact no pure antonym, and the only option is to use a verb phrase instead:

"I lied," is the verb;
"I told a lie," is the verb phrase.

So the antonymous verb phrase would be "I told the truth."

Can't seem to come up with anything better than that right now. I briefly entertained the possibility of an antonym to 'prevaricate' like 'varicate' but apparently that's an adjective pertaining to medical research, so no dice.

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+1 for testify –  bib Apr 4 at 13:04
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I know you're not proposing them as being the answer but "attest" and "testify" mean to assert something to be true, not necessarily to tell the truth (hence, the offence of perjury). –  David Richerby Apr 5 at 12:28
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@DavidRicherby That's also why I was careful not to upvote answers like 'own up' or 'confess', since they are verbs that refer more specifically to admitting the truth, esp. about committed crimes, rather than just upfront speaking the truth. –  NinjaDuckie Apr 5 at 12:35

I'm going to suggest confess.

  1. To admit to the truth, particularly in the context of sins or crimes committed.

It would fit your lyric well. "You keep lying, when you oughta be confessin'"

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I take it you want an antonym for the verb lying. I don't think a single word antonym exists yet in English. But I think it might be in the making.

Wikitionary has an entry, albeit a short one:

Verb: truthing, Present participle of truth.

The Urban Dictionary, however, has an entry for truthing: the act of telling the truth.

It also has one for creative truthing: "When you present the truth in a very unflattering way as a means to deter another person's romantic interest in you (most useful in online dating)."

I was grossly unimpressed when I met Joe for a coffee date. I wasn't lying when I told him that I wanted to get married, have two kids and be a stay at home mom. I was just creative truthing.

Full Metal Mommy, a mommy blogsite, dispels the lies and myths about potty training in Potty Truthing.

Another website, The Human Potential Center, has an article titled TRUTHING AND TRUSTING - An honest look at the effects of dishonesty

An article on Wikileaks: Truthing People into Peace

There is a book about relationships that emphasizes truthing:

“Truthing” is the word we have been using in this chapter to designate simplicity, clarity, honesty and humility in communication. Truthing seeks simplicity..., clarity..., honesty...

It gets a substantial number of hits on Google (- ground, as ground truthing is a method of data collecting in the field).

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Thanks for the well researched answer. If I could accept two, I'd accept this one as well. Have an upvote instead. –  Pete Apr 3 at 23:24
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Wiktionary (and even moreso Urban dictionary) are questionable resources for judging word popularity. There are errors in OED and Merriam-Webster, but anybody can add things to wiktionary and urban dictionary. –  Mitch Apr 4 at 1:14
    
@Mitch - I didn't know that. Hmm. I will remember that. I did upvote the accepted answer, was surprised that my search revealed so little. Kinda makes me want to pull my answer. Well, at least I can resolve to use those sources rarely if ever. Thanks! O_o –  medica Apr 4 at 1:38
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@medica Consider W and UD to be entertainment and inspiration "What? Does bangorrhea really mean that?!!!". But just not reliable. –  Mitch Apr 4 at 2:48
    
@medica Urban Dictionary is stunningly unreliable. Wikipedia cites sources and has a culture of people correcting errors; Urban Dictionary really is just "Some guy on the internet said..." –  David Richerby Apr 5 at 12:30

The Hip Hop usage of the word "represent" comes pretty close. It's a bit narrower in scope than the generic scope of "lie", but certainly accurate in some contexts.

It basically means that someones language and actions match their authentic self -- frequently in hip hop it's narrowed to representing one's true cultural self. For instance, if you are from a certain socio-economic status, it would be a "lie" to talk and act in a way to cover up that truth of your existence. However, if you represent, you try to be authentic to your background in both words and actions.

http://onlineslangdictionary.com/meaning-definition-of/represent

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How about "to own up" and "to own"?

E.g.

The one who did it had better own up!

Never lie. Own your mistakes.

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+1 - good thought! As well as well-established, and a good contrast in it's implications to lie. Well done. –  medica Apr 3 at 23:28
    
Good one! Not necessarily the typical contrast to lie, but it fits rather well. –  David M Apr 3 at 23:35
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Thanks! It's also a three letter word the way "lie" is. –  Elian Apr 3 at 23:46
    
"Own up" doesn't really work. To own up to something is to admit to having done it, with the implication that it was something negative. It's about moving from a state of lying (or, at least, keeping something secret) to one of telling the truth. You could own up to having stolen something but you couldn't, in most circumstances, own up to driving a black car. –  David Richerby Apr 5 at 12:39
    
And I suspect that "own" in this sense is business bs speak for "take responsibility for". Can you, for example, come up with a sentence using "own" that conveys the meaning of, "He truthfully stated that he drives a black car"? ("He owns a black car" doesn't count! :-) ) –  David Richerby Apr 5 at 12:40

Whatever one may neologize or 'type convert' ('truthing' or 'to truth'), the way that actual people express the opposite of lying is

telling the truth

There is no necessity that every single word have a corresponding relative single word counterpart (see lexical gap ). Also, there very well may be a single word counterpart to 'lying' (there isn't) but it may be less common than how people (or is it 'persons') actually say things.

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Verily, to this I say, Amen. Our language is adequate for our needs. Not that exploring it and modifying it isn't. but it must change to meet needs, not only desires. –  medica Apr 4 at 19:00
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@medica: I like 'truthin', it's just too funny sounding to be used seriously. 'Truth' is a mass noun, but there's no 'Lie' that's a mass noun. 'Falsehood'? –  Mitch Apr 4 at 19:55
    
@Mitch Yes, "Falsehood". –  David Richerby Apr 5 at 12:32
    
A lexical gap may exist because there is no perceived need to fill it... one might explain no direct antonym to the verb to lie because one might assume that everyone tells the truth by default. –  Mitch Apr 5 at 15:32

You could say 'bear witness' which is the opposite of 'bear false witness', prefixed in the Ten Commandments with 'thou shalt not'.

As a side note I think it stems from the difference in the nature of the words. As truth is viewed as singular as there is only one truth (from one person's perspective anyway) but there are many lies possible as an alternative to that truth. It's very difficult to provide an antonym of a plural which is by nature singular.

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I like it but does "bear witness" necessarily imply the truth? It feels like one can just as well bear true witness as bear false witness and that an act of bearing witness could thus be either true or false. –  David Richerby Apr 5 at 12:46
    
To bear witness does imply honesty. @DavidRicherby you're right it could be explicitly false, but to bear witness (to witness) is, at least IMHO, fully truthful. But I may add my own answer using witness, with a different discourse than GenericJam. –  Tom Pace Apr 7 at 1:10

"to lie" seems to have a sense of speaking or expressing at the very least.

It's an word to express deliberately hidden unreliability... that's one way of putting it!

So what first came to mind is witness as an antonym, a word to express deliberate open reliability. I'd like to think its awkwardness isn't because of bad grammar but simply unfamiliarity with its use, ie "You need to witness about the dent in the car, not lie about the dent in the car."

But a skim over thesaurus and connotations, lead me to think inform although it's got the more explicit misinform antonym. "You need to inform about the dent in the car, not lie about it".

This is a really interesting point. It seems calculate the opposite of "lying", as stating false, deliberately, results in stating truth, deliberately. That leads me back to witness. But, it may be fair to say, when we humans communicate, it's typical to communicate without false statement. So an opposite of a default state, should be naturally explicit. And "lying" is explicit, where there is no easy answer. Thus, I could propose speaking as an antonym. Hahaha. But, personally, I like witnessing best.

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I just checked the OED and the Historical thesaurus. to no avail. no such antonym...good catch.

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