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In almost every dictionary, candidly and honestly are explained as having the same meaning.

Still, I'm pretty sure there must be some difference, whether big or tiny. Any reasonable tip would be much appreciated!

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  • I think the most important difference is not in meaning, but in register and frequency: "honest" is a much more commonly used word than "candid," and the same goes for "honestly" and "candidly."
    – herisson
    Commented Aug 16, 2015 at 23:47
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    Giorgi, what dictionaries are you using? I'm a teacher and observe that many of my students' difficulties arise from using bad dictionaries or one with sloppy definitions. Commented Aug 17, 2015 at 1:15
  • Collins, Cambridge, Oxford. I'm considering myself as almost bilingual in English.. so, I do have an eye to differentiate good and bad dictionaries, I assume; however, there still occur some questions which are even obscure to native speakers. Would you recommend me any other dictionary which might be more descriptive and better analysis provider? Commented Jan 17, 2019 at 9:00
  • It would be helpful if you linked to the definitions that are giving you trouble and also quote the relevant parts in your question.
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented Jan 19, 2020 at 0:43

4 Answers 4

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Candid and honest do not mean the same thing--they don't even have similar word roots.

Let's start with "candid." This word means "openness" and "not scripted or rehearsed." During the 70s, there was a popular American TV show called "Candid Camera" hosted by Alan Funt. We did not call it "Honest Camera." The show featured raw film footage of people in candid situations. It was not scripted and showed sincere and genuine reactions of ordinary people.

We use the word "candid" to talk about politicians' answers and interviews with actors. We say "candid interview" not "honest interview." In a candid interview, a person might not have access to the questions beforehand, or have thought out answers, or be as scripted. If a politician or actor were involved in a scandal, you can be sure they will not participate in a candid interview.

The word honest means "not deceptive, fair, or displaying integrity." We want policemen who are honest, judges who display honesty, and politicians that give honest answers. The key word is "not deceptive." Candid has nothing to do with deception, trickery, fraud, or cheating, things which the light of honesty combats.

The words have started to be used interchangeably because people confuse "unscripted" with "honest."

We want honest not candid politicians. Donald Trump is an example of a candid politician. He's being honest about his answers but I prefer he were less candid in his responses. Usually, the more experience a politician has the less candid they are, which can be frustrating for voters who think everything is scripted and designed to manipulate. Candid responses such as Trump's often cause people to grimace or cringe.

Policemen typically do not speak candidly about subjects because the stakes are high. They have practiced responses and ways of dealing with things that protect and serve the greater purpose of justice. In the current situation in America, many people will laugh at what I just said, but ideally we believe this. We do want policemen who are honest and give honest answers.

Candid answers are usually spontaneous and people are called to task for them. "I misspoke" is a response when criticized for a candid answer.

There is some overlap with these words but the overlap is not a majority.

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  • quite right....
    – Fattie
    Commented Aug 17, 2015 at 1:20
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    Etymology has no bearing on sense. If it did, we would have to go back to candidus for a glistening white, and to honestus for honorable or fair or decent or fine or handsome — and that really makes no sense to do that.
    – tchrist
    Commented Aug 17, 2015 at 1:59
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    @tchrist sometimes that is true, however for many words, "going back in time" helps one understand their usage--for me at least. Commented Aug 17, 2015 at 2:05
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    @tchrist so because the words have completely different origins and meanings they can't mean the same thing...even today...that's why I mentioned etymology. Commented Aug 17, 2015 at 2:53
  • Thank you Michael, your answer is good; however, I wouldn't have said that so strictly and sharply.. you emphasize that there is NOTHING in common, but at the end, you say, that there is an overlap. I got your point and etymological semantics of these words, for which, I thank you. What's the best dictionary you think? Commented Jan 17, 2019 at 9:38
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To speak honestly and to speak candidly both mean to speak in an open, fair, just, and sincere manner.

For candid the OED gives as one current sense:

Frank, open, ingenuous, straight-forward, sincere in what one says.

While for honest the OED gives as one current sense:

That deals fairly and uprightly in speech and act; sincere, truthful, candid; that will not lie, cheat, or steal. (The prevailing modern sense, the ‘honest man’ being the ‘good citizen’, the law-abiding man, as opposed to the rogue, thief, or enemy of society.)

As you see, it defines honest in terms of candid, but honest also carries a bit of the law-abiding with it that candid does not.

To me, candidly has a slight nuance of not holding anything back even if it’s something that will be hard to say or hear, but I would not count on that.

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    I (also?) think that candidly carries stronger implications of being forthcoming. In practice the two words normally end up being used synonymously, but it's worth noting that there are five instances of honest but not candid in Google Books. And I at least wasn't surprised to discover that there are none at all for candid but not honest. Commented Aug 16, 2015 at 23:35
  • mixcloud.com/DC-10/candid-lies
    – Fattie
    Commented Aug 17, 2015 at 2:02
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    An answer displaying honest toil done in valid research. Commented Jan 17, 2020 at 15:22
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Honest means "not lying" (ie, a response given is in fact true).

Candid means "unguarded" - speaking your mind, speaking your actual opinions "off the record" rather than a careful or constructed response.

{Note that indeed "candid" comments could be, indeed, total lies, or quite honest, or a mix, or indeed could be irrelevant to that concept; candid comments may be train-of-thought stuff: "His candid comments caught off camera showed him to be a blithering idiot who mainly talks incoherently about golf" .. for example.}

The words aren't even really close in meaning and are not related. Check in a good dictionary.

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    So, it's like candid is more related to frank, then honest. It's like direct, opened, straightforward.. am I right? Commented Dec 17, 2016 at 14:54
  • The second paragraph of Michael's answer, is absolutely clear. It couldn't be more clear. Candid means "not scripted or rehearsed" - "off the cuff" "impromptu" "NOT 'thought-out'". "unrehearsed" "unplanned". There you go!
    – Fattie
    Commented Dec 17, 2016 at 15:22
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American Dictionary of the English Language, Noah Webster 1828 is very good dictionary compare to modern dictionaries. Its definition for candid is:

    1. [L. candidus, white, from canden, to be white; W. canu, to bleach. See Cant.] White. Dryden [But in this sense rarely used.]
    1. Fair; open; frank; ingenuous; free from undue bias; disposed to think and judge according to truth and justice, or without partiality or prejudice; applied to persons.
    1. Fair; just; impartial; applied to things; as a candid view, or construction.
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  • Look at my answer again. I edited it.
    – Jay
    Commented Jan 14, 2021 at 9:21
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    Please note that the question was about two adverbs, not adjectives. Giving the definition of one adjective doesn't deal with the difference between the 2 given adverbs. Try to edit you answer into a more complete one.
    – fev
    Commented Jan 14, 2021 at 11:57
  • What about 'honestly'? Also, once you copy paste that definition, you should explicitly point out what the difference is in your own words.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jan 14, 2021 at 14:30

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