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Sometimes we mistakenly think something is true and so we tell it to others; Unbeknownst to us, the thing is not true. How to call such untruthfulness?


A: You told me she will not be in this party. You lied to me.

B: No, I didn't know that myself. She told me she is out of town.

In the above scenario, what B had said to A was a "honest lie".

"Honest lie" has been used for such untruthfulness. But I need other words/terms/phrases for that. And I need a verb, something meaning "honest lying".

There is also this word "confabulate" [same source] which is more of technical usages and means mistakenly and with no intention taking something false as true. But this is obviously not what I want.

marked as duplicate by Xanne, Jim, Laurel, Drew, David Sep 25 '17 at 12:07

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  • 4
    I've never noticed honest lie nor anything like it and I've been listening for 60 years. When it's commonly used could you provide some examples, please? Untruthfulness is not comparable to lacking truth. Lies are deliberate. What would be wrong with mistake or error? – Robbie Goodwin Sep 24 '17 at 17:09
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    I never heard of "honest lie" either. A lie is something that is known to be false. – Weather Vane Sep 24 '17 at 17:14
  • @RobbieGoodwin I added an example to the question. Word such as "mistake" and "error" are two broad. I want a word to describe that kind of "saying false things to others unintentionally". "Honest lie" is good but when I turn it into a verb as "honest lying" then it sounds odd. – Sasan Sep 24 '17 at 17:19
  • @WeatherVane Sounds like a pretty common term for example on Google Ngram: books.google.com/ngrams/… – Sasan Sep 24 '17 at 17:22
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    there is no word or phrase for that in English afaik. – user175542 Sep 24 '17 at 18:47

When I say something which I believe to be true it is said in good faith.

No, I said that in good faith. She told me she is out of town.

As defined here by Oxford online dictionary.

You also use the phrase

Unbeknownst to us, the thing is not true.

which can be said as

This was a misconception.

Even if some people do say "honest lie", I would not because a lie has the intention to deceive, so it cannot be honest.

Edit after a comment from OP. The sentence

You lied to me.

Can be rephrased with less accusation as

You misled me.


I am sorry I misled you.

  • Good suggestion, but I am looking for a verb in that sense. – Sasan Sep 24 '17 at 17:40
  • @Sasan I edited the answer. – Weather Vane Sep 24 '17 at 17:43
  • But "mislead" can be both intentional and unintentional. – Sasan Sep 24 '17 at 17:46
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    @Sasan yes, so I did not intend to mislead you. – Weather Vane Sep 24 '17 at 18:51

honest mistake. it's not a lie if it is unintentional.

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