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What is a verb to describe someone speaking honestly? Instead of "Joe speaks honestly about today", I'd like to say "Joe honests about today". But an actual, real word.

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    – MetaEd
    Aug 17, 2017 at 17:04

13 Answers 13

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From MW:

testify

intransitive verb

1 : to make a solemn declaration under oath for the purpose of establishing a fact (as in a court)
2 a : to make a statement based on personal knowledge or belief : bear witness
2 b : to serve as evidence or proof
3 : to express a personal conviction

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  • 9
    True, but implies a situation that may not be the setting the OP intends. Aug 14, 2017 at 18:52
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    Testify is also used in church settings to mean speak the truth (about your relationship with deity).
    – Davo
    Aug 14, 2017 at 19:19
  • This is the first thing that came to my mind too--but it would need to be in a completely un-religious setting in order to free it from it's traditional context. "Jim then started to testify on the day's events"
    – Bill K
    Aug 14, 2017 at 22:33
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    I agree with the comments. If I heard, "Joe testifies about today." then I would expect to hear only about Joe's religious and/or spiritual experiences during the day. Aug 16, 2017 at 2:48
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Joe levels about today.

The New Oxford American Dictionary defines this like so:

4 [ no obj. ] (level with) informal be frank or honest with (someone): when are you going to level with me?

(Note that "level with" is a common usage for this definition, but it is not a set phrase; this is a definition for the word "level," not an idiom.)


This is the only word I can think of that really does mean just that.

Most other words suggested signify that the speaker claims his statements are true, but they don't imply at all that they really are true. "Avow, testify, aver, affirm"—all are closer synonyms of "declare" or "assert."

Interesting that there are so few verbs that really mean "to tell the truth" but there are plenty that mean "to say one is telling the truth."

Related words that are other parts of speech include (adjectives) candid, frank, honest; and (nouns) candor, frankness, honesty.

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  • I agree this is the best fit, but re the second part of the answer, I don't think it's about telling the truth. You can speak honestly and yet falsely (when mistaken). If it were about speaking truthfully rather than honestly, then "disclose" or "elucidate" or "reveal" would probably fit better.
    – Frank
    Aug 15, 2017 at 19:36
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    @Frank, interesting point. You're right. But you can also speak truthfully without speaking honestly, since it's easy to deceive and mislead by omitting crucial details yet only stating what is literally factual.
    – Wildcard
    Aug 15, 2017 at 21:28
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    +1 I agree this is a better fit than the assert synonyms, but I think even "level" isn't a perfect fit; to me, it has a strong connotation of confessing or coming clean rather than just being honest from the start, as implied by the example sentence. I think this really is just an area where we don't have a straight single verb (though there are many ways to say it using adjectives and nouns, as you say).
    – 1006a
    Aug 16, 2017 at 1:56
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avow

Assert or confess openly ODO.

"He avowed that he had voted Labour in every election."

Avow has the connotation of speaking frankly.

Avouch is another verb meaning to affirm or assert but avouch is no longer in common use.

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  • Would be a bit weird to say "I avowed that for lunch I had a sandwich and some fruit." Aug 14, 2017 at 21:22
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    Yeah, a little bit. Aug 14, 2017 at 21:27
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    As Dalton said in the movie Road House, "Opinions vary." Aug 14, 2017 at 21:32
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    The trouble with this option and others like it (aver, attest, asseverate, declare, etc.) is that while the speaker asserts that their statement is true, the word itself doesn't imply that—it is perfectly logical to say that someone "avowed untruthfully" or "dishonestly avowed".
    – 1006a
    Aug 14, 2017 at 21:52
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    @MikeJRamsey56 It is possible the OP is looking for a word to be used in the context of an omniscient narrator. Aug 15, 2017 at 23:33
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Joe opened up about today.

From an understanding that when someone "speaks honestly" they speak from their heart.

Edit:

dictionary.com isn't aware of this usage of 'opened up'. Cambridge dictionary defines it as:

to talk about your personal thoughts or feelings

Merriam-Webster is a bit vague with their definition:

to become communicative

As a note, this may not be a good answer, just an answer - someone may be speaking the truth without involving their feelings.

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  • +1 but FYI the answer would benefit from an external source definition (it'll get further downloaded without one). Aug 15, 2017 at 6:48
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aver

to declare positively

From: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/aver

Mr. Murray avers that many large organizations in the private sector are run by curmudgeons like him … — Joseph Epstein

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How about "attest" in the sense of bearing witness to or declare as truthful?

Source: industry experience in which physicians must attest to orders dictated by, but not actually written by, themselves. While these attestations are written, one can also verbally attest in the same sense.

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In the time-honored tradition of verbing a noun, you could say that

Joe truths1 about today.

This usage actually is fairly venerable, though rare; in the set phrase "to truth it in love" the Oxford English Dictionary attests it back to 1604, and in more colloquial usage to 1888.

It may be familiar to some folks from the lyrics to the Nancy Sinatra song "These Boots are Made for Walking":

You keep lyin' when you oughta be truthin'
(lyrics courtesy of Google Play Music)

Note that while the meaning is fairly transparent, this usage is definitely non-standard; for more formal writing or speech, you'd want to stick to some variation of Joe spoke honestly or Joe was honest or Joe told the truth.


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truth v.
3.
†a. trans. with it. To speak or act truly and honestly; to behave in accordance with the truth. Chiefly in to truth it in love. Cf. TRUTHIFY v. 1. Obs. rare (in later use chiefly U.S.).
Chiefly with reference or allusion to Ephesians 4:15 (see note in etymology).

1604 A. WILLET Thes. Ecclesiæ ix. 106 Saint Paul therefore saith, ἀλαθεύοντες εν̑ ἀγάπη, following the truth in loue, Ephes. 4.15... We must then loue in the truth, and truth it in loue.
[attestations omitted]

b. intr. U.S. colloq. and regional. To tell the truth.

1888 St. Louis (Missouri) Post-Dispatch 27 Aug. 6/6 ‘Hip! Ar' ye truthin?’ exclaimed the girl as she sprang up.
[two more attestations, 1920 & 1923, omitted]

("truth, v." OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2017. Definition 3.)

NB The OED is behind a paywall; if you don't have access, check with your local library, which may have a subscription.

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    While this is technically correct, most natives would think it sounds funny. Aug 14, 2017 at 20:53
  • @JBH Yes, that's why my note at the end about the usage being "non-standard".
    – 1006a
    Aug 14, 2017 at 21:47
  • Obligatory Peep Show: "I truthed it! Truthing works!"
    – Michael
    Aug 16, 2017 at 12:30
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Disclose.

I get a connotation that anything hidden would be revealed.

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    Joe discloses about today? Isn't disclose obligatorily transitive? Aug 14, 2017 at 21:32
  • "...and then Joe disclosed the information of the day". Kinda works.
    – Bill K
    Aug 14, 2017 at 22:31
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I don't think there's a single word for what you want to say. But if you want a phrase, try 'KEEP IT REAL'(be genuine, unaffected, or honest).

Reference: Oxford Living Dictionaries

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  • For the provided context this indeed seems to have the desired meaning. "Joe keeps it real". My concern here is that this does not allow the speaker to specify that the speech was about "today", specifically. (At least, I can't think of how to phrase it.) To say one "keeps it real" is usually a reference to an attribute of a person's character rather than to a particular utterance. Aug 14, 2017 at 18:51
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    I see no reason why it can't be a temporary state. Consider the following sentence: Joe usually sugarcoats his opinions, but, today, he's keeping it real.
    – Louel
    Aug 14, 2017 at 19:02
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    Along this line, Joe tells it like it is.
    – Davo
    Aug 14, 2017 at 19:17
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Depends on the context, but many of the following may work: admit confess concede reveal confide divulge expose narrate relate yield unveil uncover profess

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The best antonym I can find given your example sentence is prevaricate.

Prevaricate to deceive, deviate from the truth, or stretch the truth. (here and here.)

Of the antonyms to prevaricate listed at those two sites, the several that make the most sense to me in context of your question are: assert, testify, confirm, and verify.

While all four of those words fundamentally mean, "to speak honestly," they all have baggage that might impact the meaning you're looking for.

Assert: aggressive or forceful context. Definitive, but not necessarily precise.

Testify: judicial or religious context. Witnessing an event.

Confirm: Assumes previous knowledge in the conversation.

Verify: Assumes a question of inauthenticity.

We would need more information about how you are using your sentence to give you a more precise answer.

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  • I wonder if a new word that would sound just perfect could be formed from the Latin antonyms for the Latin words in the etymology of "prevaricate"? Just a passing fancy.... :)
    – Wildcard
    Jan 3, 2018 at 5:13
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affirm

state as a fact; assert strongly and publicly.

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Authenticity the quality of being authentic

a : worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to or based on fact

Authenticity has come into popular usage when describing a person's demeanor, feelings or "way of being." I think it works for your sample sentence.

http://www.dictionary.com/browse/authentic

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    Authenticity is a noun ("the quality"). The OP asked for a verb. "Joe authenticity about today." is obviously nonsense. Aug 15, 2017 at 9:16
  • but authenticate is a verb
    – Philip Roe
    Aug 15, 2017 at 16:44
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    @PhilipRoe "To authenticate" has a completely different meaning: it doesn't mean to communicate authentically; instead, it means to verify the authenticity of something.
    – jpaugh
    Aug 15, 2017 at 20:50
  • @jpaugh. I would like to authenticate that statement?? OK, I agree its a bit feeble.
    – Philip Roe
    Aug 15, 2017 at 21:03

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