Kayla and Rob are good friends, and they also happen to be taking a class together at a community college. The class is very small, so the professor knows all of the students by name. One day, Rob decides to play hookie. He texts Kayla and tells her that he "got really sick and won't be in class today." Kayla writes back an acknowledgement and a get-well-soon, and goes to class. The professor notices that Rob is not present, and casually asks the class if they have seen Rob. Kayla pipes up and says "He's sick today."

Eventually, the professor finds out that Rob was not actually sick, and just took the day off. He also happens to know that they are friends, so he is disappointed not only in Rob, but also in Kayla for "lying" to him about Rob.

Kayla did not tell the truth, but pragmatically she did not "lie." She merely forwarded false information that she believed to be true, as she was given that information in good faith by someone she trusted.

I'm looking for the most succinct, accurate phrase/expression/word to describe "giving someone false information while believing (and having good reason to believe) at that time that the information is true."

  • 8
    See, this is why we need evidentiality markers in English. If Kayla had been speaking any of a host of South American languages, there would have been no doubt, because it would have been incorporated into the verb he is that she knows this from hearsay (i.e., because he told her). Of course, the professor would probably have wondered why she was suddenly speaking in a South American Indian language, but that’s a minor detail. (What business is it of the professor’s whether Rob skips class, anyway?) Mar 28, 2015 at 18:31

9 Answers 9



Not knowing; unaware; not intended; unintentional.

Kayla unwittingly answered that he was ill.

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    This could work, but I was hoping for something that emphasized better that she genuinely believed that she was telling the truth, not just that she said something without fact-checking. Mar 28, 2015 at 18:24
  • @n00neimp0rtant - That is, I think, the word that would be used in the context - believing oneself to be right but from false information, and passing that along, unwittingly. Mar 28, 2015 at 18:40
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    Maybe we could get together with unwitting misrepresents?
    – bib
    Mar 28, 2015 at 21:35
  • -1: Kayla didn't unwittingly answer; she unwittingly repeated a lie.
    – Rosie F
    Sep 28, 2018 at 5:30
  • @RosieF - That 'observation' is badly out of context. To "unwittingly answer" is to give away more information than intended. To unwittingly answer that he was ill is the entire context. It's as if I reiterated your comment as, "She lied." Sep 28, 2018 at 23:53

She reported in good faith:

Give a spoken or written account of something that one has observed, heard, done, or investigated:


From page 304 of Kelly M. Pyrek's Forensic Nursing, 2006:

The false-reporting laws must be read together with the immunity statutes and case law; however, persons who report in good faith are immune from civil and criminal liability.

On its own, the expression says nothing about the truth of the report, but in the context of a report that has been falsified, it concedes the fallacy without accepting responsibility for the misrepresentations of others.


Why not the phrase unknowingly misrepresents?

Depending on context, misrepresent can be neutral as to intent

(transitive) to represent wrongly or inaccurately


Unknowingly takes care of the intent.

  • In the scenario given in the question, what object would be "misrepresented?" Rob himself, or Rob's situation, or Rob's excuse? Just not sure how to correctly work that phrase into a sentence to accurately describe the scenario. Mar 28, 2015 at 18:19
  • Rob's situation.
    – bib
    Mar 28, 2015 at 18:21

It is called misinformation and it differs from disinformation.

Everybody makes mistakes, even sources with the best of intentions. Honest mistakes are known as misinformation. People can be wrong, or misinformed, and still believe they're perfectly correct.

When sources make mistake on purpose, it is disinformation.

"Cited!: Identifying Credible Information Online" By Larry Gerber


They had lied to me and I had passed misinformation on to my neighbors.

The Kokomo Tribune from Kokomo, Indiana - Page 35 / newspapers.com


It was naive of her to repeat such hearsay.

na·ïve /naɪˈiːv/ adjective -dictionary.com

  1. having or showing a lack of experience, judgment, or information

hear·say /ˈhirˌsā/ noun -Google

information received from other people that one cannot adequately substantiate; rumor.

  • naive might describe the reason why she believed Rob in the first place, but I don't think it refers to the act of passing the information on.
    – Barmar
    Mar 30, 2015 at 19:50
  • I think naively works perfectly for this scenario. "She naively answered that he was ill." It implies that she did not know better -- she was none the wiser.
    – Mike
    Mar 31, 2015 at 0:38
  • The professor was also being naive if they trusted her when she told them that Ferris was sick.
    – Mazura
    Mar 31, 2015 at 0:46

Bona fide:

  • Sincerely; without intention to deceive: the court will assume that they have acted bona fide
  • Kayla acted honestly and bona fide

A "word to describe 'giving someone false information while believing (and having good reason to believe) at that time that the information is true.'"

Kayla inadvertently conveyed false information she presumed to be true.

Based upon her, possibly premature and misplaced, trust in Rob, Kayla conveyed the information provided by her friend to their professor, in good faith. Only after the fact did Kayla come to understand that what she had told her professor was inaccurate. Kayla told what she “presumed” to be the truth, therefore, Kayla conveyed a “presumptive truth.”

presumptive adjective: of the nature of a presumption; presumed in the absence of further information. "a presumptive diagnosis"

synonyms: conjectural, speculative, tentative; theoretical, unproven, unconfirmed;

• Law: giving grounds for the inference of a fact or of the appropriate interpretation of the law.

synonyms: probable, likely, prospective, assumed, supposed, expected; Google presumptive

The act was in good faith and "inadvertent"; the inaccurate information, "presumptive."

  • A presumption is usually (quoting ODO) “an idea that is taken to be true on the basis of probability” or “the acceptance of something as true although it is not known for certain”. While technically I suppose Kayla was accepting Rob’s statement as true without knowing for certain, something a good friend tells you about his own state of being in a situation like this one feels rather too much like certain knowledge to me for Kayla’s belief to really be labelled presumptive. If he hadn’t texted her and she just assumed he was sick because he wasn’t there, that would be more presumptive. Mar 28, 2015 at 19:54
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    @Janus Bahs Jacquet - here we would disagree. "certain knowledge" is certainly knowledge you know to be factual. Anything less can only be characterized as "presumptive."
    – user98990
    Mar 28, 2015 at 20:01
  • @Janus Bahs Jacquet - additionally, I offered this term because the OP turns on a question of guilt or innocence and this is a legal term. Possibly an acceptable midpoint between "certain" and "presumptive" truth is contained in the above legal understanding of "presumptive" i.e., the inference of fact.
    – user98990
    Mar 28, 2015 at 20:11
  • I suppose my point is that we never really know anything to be factual: there are only really various levels of likelihood that something is in fact true. Even things we witness ourselves or test scientifically may turn out to be incorrect (if you're Hercule Poirot, you'll assume they are). It's a fluid boundary when something is presumption/inference, and when it is knowledge—and to me personally, a friend's statement of the kind Rob gave here would tend to fall on the knowledgy side of that boundary. But the boundary is of course subjective as much as it is fluid. Mar 28, 2015 at 21:36
  • @Janus Bahs Jacquet - "I suppose Kayla was accepting Rob’s statement as true without knowing for certain". So Kayla made an assumption - she inferred a fact, based upon her trust in a good friend - which was erroneous. I can think of no better term for this than that Kayla presumed that what Rob had told her, and what she subsequently conveyed to the professor, was true.
    – user98990
    Mar 28, 2015 at 21:48

Kayla was just as much a victim of Rob's lie as she was his patsy.

a person who is easily taken advantage of, especially by being cheated or blamed for something.

Kayla was his ingenuous accomplice when she relayed that Rob was sick.

showing innocent or childlike simplicity and candidness


Usually I see that called an honest mistake.

(Of an action) blameless or well intentioned even if unsuccessful or misguided: he’d made an honest mistake. (Oxford Dictionary)

A mistake made unknowingly with no intention to do wrong. (Idioms Dictionary)

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