In the chapter 5 of the book Creativity, Inc. the author, Ed Catmull, writes a lot about candor and honesty, but I'm not sure I was able to fully understand what candor means.

Maybe I'm confused because of Portuguese (my native language). In Portuguese we have honesty (Honestidade), sincerity (Sinceridade) and candor (Candura). However this "equivalent" of candor is used much more for innocence. That's the reason I would prefer the term sincerity.

Is there a big difference between those two terms?

  • Note that "sincerity" is often used to describe the appearance of honesty and straight-forwardness, but may simply be a mask for deception.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jan 19, 2018 at 13:55
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    A simplified version: sincerity means "If I say it, it's true", candor means "If it's true, I say it". Although sincerity can also be used to refer to statements that are false, but the speaker really believes are true. Commented Jan 19, 2018 at 20:43
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    @HotLicks I don't ever associate the word sincerity with false appearances.
    – barbecue
    Commented Jan 19, 2018 at 22:05
  • @barbecue -- books.google.com/…
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jan 20, 2018 at 0:16
  • books.google.com/…
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jan 20, 2018 at 0:18

4 Answers 4


In English, the word candor [candour in many dialects] has come to primarily mean openness and frankness, and a tendency to tell harsh truths. The OED defines it as:

Freedom from reserve in one's statements; openness, frankness, ingenuousness, outspokenness.

Sincerity does mean something similar, but it doesn't generally have the "tendency to tell harsh truths" connotation.

Freedom from dissimulation or duplicity; honesty, straightforwardness.

In other words, I would use candor to describe someone who speaks up about harsh truths without necessarily being asked. Sincerity would describe someone who can be relied upon to tell the truth when asked, though they might not speak up on their own. (This is why candor is not always viewed positively, since it can cause social friction; whereas sincerity is generally seen as an unalloyed virtue.)

Aside: To my surprise, the use of candor to mean

Stainlessness of character; purity, integrity, or innocence.

(which would seem to be the fashion it is used in Portuguese) can be found in older English texts, though the OED now considers this usage "obsolete".

  • Sincerity does not have much to do with the content of what is said. It has more to do with one's intentions when saying or doing something.
    – Eric
    Commented Jan 19, 2018 at 19:17
  • Interesting; although I've not seen the word used in a very long time, at least for me, it has something of a positive connotation, which doesn't jive with the "tendency to tell harsh truths" you mention. Is there a lot of variation in the meaning, or have I just learned the wrong meaning? Commented Jan 19, 2018 at 23:37
  • @errantlinguist, I think you've learned the wrong meaning. "Candid" photos, for example, are unposed pictures that might be unflattering
    – user70585
    Commented Jan 19, 2018 at 23:51
  • @JohnDoe to me, "candid" and "candour" are only vaguely related, and "candid" when applied to a person is positive as well anyway: "She's a very candid person". Commented Jan 20, 2018 at 0:10
  • @Michael Seifert I don't completely agree. Someone could be completely sincere while giving you advice you didn't ask for. And "candor" doesn't have to be harsh whatsoever. Sincere implies honesty. You'd need some type of modifier to, well, modify that: Faux sincerity. Candor implies talk which is not modified by politeness - possibly a harsh truth, but not necessarily. The type of speech used between friends could be described as candor. I'd say "candor" is open, unveiled, direct, and/or unregulated speech. Commented Jan 20, 2018 at 10:25

'Sincerity' is being truthful in what is said; candour is the willingness to say what is truthful.

  • 4
    So pithy and appropriate I won't downvote, but ELU generally expects supporting evidence to accompany answers. Commented Jan 19, 2018 at 15:13
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    Very apt way of summing it up +1
    – beeshyams
    Commented Jan 19, 2018 at 17:16
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    Probably the strongest unctied single-sentence answer I've seen on here. Commented Jan 19, 2018 at 18:23
  • @Ross Murray Kudos, this really is one of the best answers I've ever seen! It's incomplete, and it's not always correct - but it's a great answer. I'd say replace truth with honest... And being "sincere" is only being "true" about how one "feels" about something - it doesn't imply that what one is being sincere about is actually true. And candor shouldn't be construed as, or conflated with "truth". Commented Jan 20, 2018 at 10:56

In French, too, "candeur" is very strongly associated with youth. The word kind of presupposes that children and young people are honest because they are ignorant of the ways of the world. So you could define "candeur" as honesty by default. I am not quite sure that English usage really bears this out, especially modern English usage, which seems to mean, rather than direct honesty, "lack of dishonest intentions".

  • 1
    Your answer would be greatly improved if you supplied sources for your information. I think this a good answer if citations were supplied.
    – J. Taylor
    Commented Jan 21, 2018 at 1:07
  • Larousse says that French candeur is a noun meaning “le caractère d'une personne candide”, which arguably just moves the goal post as we look up what a candid person is in French. :) It’s a person “qui manifeste une grande ingénuité allant jusqu'à la crédulité,” for all that helps.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jan 21, 2018 at 1:19
  • @tchrist -- The example is rather old, but one may think of the character of 'Candide' in Voltaire's work of that name. Candide seems to have been credulous enough to accept Dr Pangloss's contention, that in spite of the terrible things seen right before his eyes, 'all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds'! So yes, I suspect that in French, 'candide' probably does not mean the same as 'candid' in English.
    – terry-s
    Commented Jan 21, 2018 at 10:04

Cander — blunt no beating around the bush truthfully.

Sincerity — said from the heart. For you personally. No malaise intended.

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