There was the following paragraph in the article titled “Welcome to the post-truth presidency” in Washington Post (December 2).

“As Politico’s Susan Glasser wrote in a sobering assessment of election coverage for the Brookings Institution, “Even fact-checking perhaps the most untruthful candidate of our lifetime didn’t work; the more news outlets did it, the less the facts resonated.” So there is no reason to think Trump is about to suddenly truth-up. Indeed, all signs are to the contrary — most glaringly Trump’s chockfull-of-lies tweet that “I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”

Though Google Ngram indicates that the word, “truth up” is current even before or since the beginning of the 19th century with its peak of usage in mid-1800s, neither Oxford nor Cambridge online dictionaries carry this word.

Does “truth up” mean to try to be more truthful and show integrity? What does “truth up” mean? Is it a popular word?

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    I think 'fess-up' is be a better choice of contemporary word usage than "truth up" [sic]. – Peter Point Dec 5 '16 at 2:02
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    @PeterPoint I agree that "fess up" would be more common, but the general idea seems to be to play off the current popularity of the OD´s word-of-the -year post-truth and truthiness. – Cascabel Dec 5 '16 at 2:25
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    It's the opposite of "trump up". – Hot Licks Dec 5 '16 at 18:00
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    Google Ngram does not indicate that "truth up" is a phrasal verb unit. It indicates that this pair of words occurs in some texts. For instance, a sentence like, "He didn't see the truth up to that point" contains a match. – Kaz Dec 5 '16 at 20:19
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    It's regrettable that the verb to true doesn't seem to support reflexive usage in this case, as in "no reason to think he's about to true". To true something (verb, transitive) is to make it true: to make it accurate, straight, and so on. You can true a bicycle wheel, or a guitar fretboard, – Kaz Dec 5 '16 at 20:24

The construction 'something up' is informal American usage, typically when encouraging, exhorting, or castigating someone. Originally seen in "man up" or "cowboy up" (Free Dictionary), respectively meaning:

to adopt a sufficiently resolute approach or course of action

to adopt a tough approach or course of action

If I say to someone:

You need to man up and finish your college degree

then I'm encouraging and challenging him to be tougher and to finish his studies.

So by extension, 'truth up' means to be more truthful. The sentence you quoted could be written more formally as:

So there is no reason to think Trump is about to suddenly become more truthful.


There's another example, 'lawyer up', which means to get a lawyer involved in a problem.

If your boss has been sexually harassing you, I advise you to lawyer up before you do anything else.

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    Lighten up on 'The Donald', please. Most of us on Planet Earth have caught up with the post-political transmutation of hyperbole in place of truth. I will be happy if 50% of all this BS (for BS we should now read 'Brilliant Strategy') comes to pass. Salutations! – Peter Point Dec 5 '16 at 4:45
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    @Peter Point. I have no intent to associate my question with politics at all. All the record of my 996 questions prove that. I'm not interested in the politics of any particular country. I'm simply asking the meaning of "truth up" and usage of 'noun + up' combination as a verb. It has nothing to do with Mr. Trump by person. – Yoichi Oishi Dec 5 '16 at 10:30
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    @YoichiOishi Apologies for any perceived and/or unintended political association. I meant my comment to be read as a 'tongue in cheek' quip rather than a personal indictment. Point taken. – Peter Point Dec 5 '16 at 10:41
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    I would say "suit up," meaning to put on your uniform and equipment for a game, is one of the original uses of this form. – HemiPoweredDrone Dec 5 '16 at 20:40

The particle (or adverb) up is a very useful word to indicate

with greater intensity

while down is used to indicate

to a lesser degree, level, or rate

Truth-up means to tell the truth with greater intensity or tell the truth more (one level up) compared with the past. It also could be considered short for take (bring) the truth up a notch. The opposite would be take (bring) the truth down a notch.


It appears that the expression, truth-up is uncommon, Oxford Living Dictionaries doesn't contain any mention in its truth entry. The coined expression is really a clever play on words. Consider the ‘satirical’ title of the Washington Post ‘Welcome to the post-truth presidency’, it is evident that truth-up mirrors the word-of-the-year: post-truth. It also echoes the far more common and informal term fess up; (confess; own up) which @PeterPoint in the comments correctly pointed out. (I've been waiting months to pull off that pun)

As @John Feltz explained in his answer, it means to be more truthful but I'll also add the following observation; it is almost demanding or wresting from the President elect, the truth.

The President elect has been accused of telling untruths throughout his presidential campaign; however, despite normal expectations, the hour of reckoning is nowhere in sight.

  • OK, three downvotes. Would somebody care to explain what is wrong, or not useful about this answer? – Mari-Lou A Dec 11 '16 at 14:44

I think that "truth up" in this context means "become more truthful".

I think the antecedent people are looking for is the phrase "buck up" (Merriam-Webster):

1: improve, smarten

2: to raise the morale of

Google Ngram indicates that "buck up" has been more popular than "fess up". Also its meaning is closer to that of "man up" and "cowboy up".


"Truth up" means to start telling the truth or be more truthful about one's intentions. There is an analogy to similar expressions (noun + "up") using the word "up" in the sense of "to cause (a level or amount) to be increased" such as "level up" (to advance to the next higher level) or, as in the case of "truth up," as an exhortation such as "man up" (be brave or tough enough to deal with an unpleasant situation), "cowboy up" (be more determined, try harder to overcome a difficult or adverse situation).

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    How do you know? Can you provide any supporting evidence, quotes, or references to support this answer? Please edit your answer to add that supporting information. – curiousdannii Dec 5 '16 at 5:27

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