7

Imagine a scenario where Jim provides a piece of information to Sue. Jim believes this information to be true and correct, but is later proven to be mistaken. Some might say that Jim lied to Sue. I believe this to be the wrong word, because the misinformation was unintentional.

Is there a better word for this type of unintentional "lie"?

  • 6
    There is no such thing as an unintentional lie. – tchrist Dec 19 '13 at 23:19
  • 2
    True, a lie is a falsehood. But asserting a falsehood while believing it to be true is not the act of lying. It is being mistaken. – Cyberherbalist Dec 19 '13 at 23:28
  • 5
    @Cyberherbalist: but that's the point - if it's unintentional, it fails the criteria for being a lie. The definition of "lie" includes intent. – Marthaª Dec 19 '13 at 23:59
  • 4
    You have it backwards: if the fact I utter is untrue, it's a lie if and only if I know that it is untrue. Otherwise, it's merely an untrue statement. – Marthaª Dec 20 '13 at 0:06
  • 6
    @Cyberherbalist The OED, like any other dictionary, defineds a lie as “a false statement made with intent to deceive”. Without intent to deceive, it is not a lie. It just isn’t true, is all. The opposite of true is not lie but false. – tchrist Dec 20 '13 at 0:06
7

You're right to avoid "unintentional lie", because it's an oxymoron.

lie n.
1. A false statement deliberately presented as being true; a falsehood.
2. Something meant to deceive or give a wrong impression.

As you can see, without the intent to deceive, it can't be called a "lie".

"Falsehood" technically sounds like it could be the neutral word you want, but most people use it as a synonym of "lie".

falsehood n.
1. An untrue statement; a lie.
2. The practice of lying.
3. Lack of conformity to truth or fact; inaccuracy.

OK, so inaccuracy is pretty good: the information is wrong, but the conveyor of the information isn't being accused of anything. A similar word would be untruth.

If what you want is a verb, it's a bit more difficult. You're pretty much stuck rephrasing:

Jim told Sue that [...], but he was mistaken.

Jim unintentionally gave Sue false information.

  • Untruth suffers from the same quality as falsehood -- its meaning can incorporate the unintentional, but is usually associated with a lie. – Gerard ONeill Sep 6 '15 at 13:16
0

Jim misled Sue. He didn't "lie" to her (because that was not his intent) but he did give her misleading information.

-1

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lie

LIE

1a : an assertion of something known or believed by the speaker to be untrue with intent to deceive

1b : an untrue or inaccurate statement that may or may not be believed true by the speaker

2 : some[THING] that misleads or deceives

  • Wow -- voted down without comments, despite providing a well known source's definition that includes no intent (for the noun form, not the verb form). Hopefully the vote down was because of a lack of explanation. – Gerard ONeill Sep 6 '15 at 13:26
-2

The word you're looking for is "Confabulation".

  • 2
    Your answer would be improved with a link to a dictionary, an explanation of the meaning of this word, and why you think that this word meets the requirement spelled out in the question. – Kit Z. Fox Jul 19 '14 at 21:11
  • As for the merits of the word itself -- Aside from the 'informal chat' definition which doesn't apply, the relevent one seems to only apply in psychiatry -- the filling in of memory gaps with false facts taken as true. Not even close to providing an answer. – Gerard ONeill Sep 6 '15 at 13:35

protected by tchrist Aug 10 '14 at 1:11

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.