I found a lot of people say "Frankly" or "To be frank" while the others say "Honestly" or "To be honest".

I know both of them mean that sb. is going to say sth. which is true in a direct manner. But, I keep thinking that if there is a difference between them and if yes what is it?

I am informed that in English as well as in many languages, some words are pretty same in meaning with each other, one of them is preferred by some people just because they like it. Like teenagers like to say some words which they think can make them cool. The case of "frank" and "honest", is it like this?


1 Answer 1


Here are some definitions:

Frank 1 : marked by free, forthright, and sincere expression - M-W
Honest 1 a : free from fraud or deception - M-W

Although frank has an element of honesty, its basic meaning is to be uninhibited in what is conveyed. That is, what the speaker says won't be filtered to cater to the listener's sensitivities.

Honesty can be expressed more circumspectly, but when someone starts a sentence with "Honestly, ..." you can expect a rather frank assessment.

  • 2
    Thanks for answering, think I get it, both frank and honest have the meaning of honesty, but frank is more like a person is gonna say something directly without worrying that it may sound a little uncomfortable like a cruel fact of life to the people around. Did I sort of get it right?
    – wangx1ng
    Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 14:17
  • 1
    @wangx1ng That's the first part. The second is that when Honestly is (ab)used as an interjection, the speaker is likely expressing exasperation and not paying much attention to the meaning - that's when you'd expect a rather frank assessment. Ironically, sentences like "Frankly, ..." and "To be frank, ..." tend to be spoken with less heat and consequently more tact than those starting with "Honestly! ..."
    – Lawrence
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 2:25
  • If I understand it correctly, so the key part of what honestly differs from frankly is that honestly tends to express the speaker's emotion while frankly is more likely being straight to someone.
    – wangx1ng
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 2:50
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    Another way that the two meanings differ is that "honesty" tends to refer to answering a question, while "frankness" tends to refer to information which wasn't asked for. If someone asks me if their breath smells bad, and i say yes, i'm being honest. If i walk up to someone and say "Your breath smells bad", i'm being frank. (and rude: frankness is often percieved as rude) Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 13:12
  • Those comments could be incorporated into the answer itself. They are quite important to catch the difference. Commented Oct 26, 2022 at 9:50

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