I have seen both "honey pot" and "honey trap" used by le Carre and Forsyth in their novels, and as both are ex-spooks, I am assuming this was the terminology.

It describes a person who is used as a sex object to attract an asset.

Also a source of many a man's downfall .

On the other hand, it has also been suggested that it derives from the Russian expression that describes a particular strategty.


One aspect of kompromat that stands the test of time is that the compromising information is often sexual in nature.


Does the term honey trap/pot come from a foreign source, or was it used in spy game before World War II?

From what I recall...possibly it was from Peter Wright, Spycacther...and his memoirs are mostly pre-WWII

  • A more recent use of Honey Trap is used to describe a computer set up on the internet to entice hackers to attempt to tamper with it. In reality, they are closely monitored by "the good guys" who hope to trace the hackers and prosecute them, Jul 12, 2019 at 0:07
  • Yes @PeterJennings And that is exactly what called me to this post...the current usage. However..I am looking for first usage. Jul 12, 2019 at 0:09

3 Answers 3


The simile "like flies to a honey pot" (and before that, "like flies to a honey jar") has been appearing in Australian newspaper articles for more than a century—and in Britain for more than 170 years. The earliest Australian match for the phrase is from "Sketches of Country Life in New South Wales: Good Times and Bad Times," in the Illustrated Sydney [New South Wales] News (July 5, 1884):

A mining district affords greater heights of prosperity and depths of destitution than any other in New South Wales : a valuable gold-bearing reef is discovered, and the find is quickly succeeded by a motley population, who flock to the spot like flies to a honey jar.

Then, from "The Dairying Industry: Dairymen Should Beware of Proprietary as Opposed to Co-Operative Companies," in the Camperdown [Victoria] Chronicle (August 31, 1901):

"We need only go to the western district for an illustration of the evil effects that follow when co-operation is departed from. A wealthy Melbourne firm succeeded in establishing a factory and a creamery in a very rich centre. The usual rosy inducements were held out, and the price paid for the milk was to be the same as that paid monthly by a neighbouring co-operative factory. The prospect of a free factory at their door, with a guaranteed, high price for milk, attracted the district dairymen like flies to a honey pot. For a while they thought themselves in clover—tests and prices were good. The day of reckoning, however, came, and come it always must.

From "The Gospel of More People," in the [Brisbane, Queensland] Worker (February 20, 1904):

Premier Deakin surely is not so ignorant of the real conditions of things in the Commonwealth he governs as to imagine it is only necessary to make them known to bring the people swarming here like flies to a honey pot.

From "City Jottings" in the [Port Elliot, South Australia] Southern Argus (April 5, 1906):

The new Bishop. Dr. Thomas, has come, seen, and conquered, archdeacons, canons, and priests flocking to the city as flies to a honey pot. To-morrow (Wednesday) is to be the day of days, when the "enthronement" is to take place at take place at St.Peter's Cathedral.

From Edith Dunn, "The Resurrection of Lonesome Camp," in the Gippsland [Victoria] Times (January 9, 1913):

Murchison spoke meditatively. "Funny how quick things happen when they get started,.. he said.

"It's kinda sickenin' to me the way the mob rushes to a gold strike, like flies to a honey pot, or birds to the carrion."

From "Smoke-Room Gossip," in the [Sydney, New South Wales] Referee (May 2, 1923):

Backing horses is a much more exciting pastime for the natives of Mesopotamia than worrying over the prosperity of an imported king. Barrah races attract them like flies to a honey pot, and this Arab Epsom is a curious and diverting sight during the Autumn meeting, writes Sir Percival Phillips in the London Daily Mail.

From "Christmastide at Longreach: Record Crowds," in the [Barcaldine, Queensland] Western Champion (January 3, 1925):

The toy shops were the principal attraction. Messrs. Solley's large emporium, where there were toys of every shape and size, attracted the children like flies to a honey pot, and a tremendous business was done. the assistants wearing a very worried expression before the evening, concluded. The large central window, which, the day before was packed with toys, looked as if a windstorm had struck it, a general wreckage having occurred, and leaving only the fixtures standing.

From "Mushroom Governments, in the [Ipswich] Queensland Times (May 12, 1927):

Men who know claim to know Chinese character declare that Communism can find no permanent place in a country of individualists whose tradition and natural inclination is antipathetic to Moscow doctrines. That may be true, but it would be folly to assume that the Communist menace has already been removed. China offers a rare field for trouble making. The Communists are attracted to it as flies to a honey pot and their organisation in China is far too comprehensive to be eradicated by the execution of a few agitators.

From "Amusements," in the [Hobart, Tasmania] Mercury (October 27, 1927):

At night the exhibition is a brilliant spectacle. There are countless countless coloured lights of kaleidoscopic design, intended to grace the drawing-rooms of electric homes, and these are mingled in a splendid confusion of colour. In one stand there is a small motion-picture machine, which attracts people like flies to a honey pot. They crowd round, and peer over one another's shoulders to get a glimpse of the Charlie Chaplin comedies, the Keystone Kops, or Charles A. Lindbergh starting off on his historic flight.

From "Feast for Criminals," in the [Charters Towers, Queensland] Northern Miner (September 29, 1941):

Many tricksters well known to Sydney police have been missed from their usual haunts. They inclu[d]e sneak thieves and pick-pockets, but they have pushed their old 'professions' into the background to use less risky methods of getting easy money. Mr. Alam, M.L.C., In the Legislative Council said: "The enormous weekly payroll of Lithgow war workers is drawing criminals to the town like flies to a honey pot. The population of Lithgow has risen to 24,000 without any increase in the number of police there."

From "Film Festival in the Sun," in the Australian Women's Weekly (September 10, 1969):

Kim Novak was a big success with the men, lured them like flies to a honey pot. They didn't even mind when she kept the scheduled Press conference waiting for 90 minutes while she had some extra sleep.

All eleven of these instances—one honey jar and ten honey pots are from Australian sources, although the one from 1923 evidently originated in a London newspaper. Two instances of "like flies to a honey jar" do appear in U.S. newspapers—in the [Chicago, Illinois] Day Book (September 17, 1914) and in the [Champaign-Urbana, Illinois] Daily Illini (January 20, 1928)—but Elephind searches don't turn up any matches for "like flies to a honey pot" in U.S. newspapers.

That the expression originated in Britain is strongly suggested by these two early instances. From the [London] Morning Chronicle (July 10, 1848):

The realities of war offered no allurements to the troublesome gentry who, it was hoped, might flock to the scene of strife like flies round a honey-pot; and the sympathising amateurs who had straggled northwards from Berlin and Cologne, finding nothing to be got but hard knocks and short commons, straggled back again, to serve the cause of freedom by bullying the authorities at home, and to nurse their martial enthusiasm on metaphysics and beer.

And from the [London] Morning Chronicle (September 25, 1849):

Yet in the midst of all this golden luxuriance are hardships and privations, ludicrous as well as painful, making us involuntarily reflect on the folly of those who have crowded like flies in a honey-pot, to this sweet poison—this moral birdlime—this golden temptation.

The earliest newspaper instances of the simile in which the honey pot is specifically a woman are also from the British Isles. From the Londonderry [Northern Ireland] Sentinel (July 1, 1880):

With grim amusement her uncle observed the attraction her comeliness and winning ways were for these [younger guests]. Swarming round—like flies about a honey-pot! Scenting, I daresay, her jointure. All widows are supposed to be rich; and just because she is a widow, and for other reason, making up to her, the fools! This to himself with a cynical chuckle. Aloud: Nice little woman, sir, that niece of mine.

And from the Nottinghamshire Guardian (January 7, 1893):

The body fitted like a glove—it was one of i Madame Corinne's most artistic productions; and when I looked at my reflection in the glass, although I had been suffering all the week from a severe attack of low spirits, I could not help smiling with satisfaction. It is so nice to be pretty and young, and to know that directly you enter a drawing-room you will have a crowd of men swarming round you like flies round a honey-pot, instead of having to sit forlorn and neglected in a corner.

Of course, the great shift in sense that occurs when "honey trap" or "honey pot" becomes a lure to personal or professional compromise, if not ruin, is that the "honey pot" in that case exists for the purpose of entrapment—whereas the literal, real-world honey pot attracts insects against the will of its owner. Nevertheless, I feel confident that the term "honey pot" in the metaphorical sense of "baited trap designed to attract and compromise the unwary" owes its existence to the simile "like flies to a honey pot."


Honeypot as a way to address to a sexy woman was in use before WWII, from which probably its use extended to espionage:

(also nectar pot) an attractive woman; also as a term of address)

  • 1939 [UK] P. Cheyney Don’t Get Me Wrong (1956) 82: I am ponderin’ plenty about that honeypot.



The OED attributes the espionage first usage indeed to le Carre:

honey trap

orig. and chiefly British. Originally in espionage, now esp. in Journalism: a stratagem in which an attractive person (usually a woman) entices another (usually a man) into revealing information, etc.; a person employing such a stratagem; (also more broadly) any stratagem in which an enticement is used to entrap a person in some way.

As in:

1974 ‘J. le Carré’ Tinker, Tailor vi. 48 ‘Long ago..I made a mistake and walked into a honey trap.’ ‘He made an ass of himself with a Polish girl.’

  • I think I have that in the question... Jul 11, 2019 at 23:48
  • @Cascabel confirming same ... finding no foreign source or pre-WWII.
    – lbf
    Jul 11, 2019 at 23:52

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