I'm having hard time distinguishing between these words and come to ask you gracious people for help.

I recently learned the word "fabricate". I got into the dictionary for more details, and found as follows.

According to Cambridge Dictionary

to invent or produce something false in order to deceive someone:

At first glance, I thought the word "lie" (in verb form).

However, in google, I could not able to find useful comparison between those words, like 'which context are they used differently?' or 'what vibe are they used in diverse situations?'. And I think the reason why I can't find comparison in google is that they are used in very different situation.

What word to choose in what situation?

  • 6
    Hint: it's possible to lie without inventing any details.
    – nnnnnn
    Commented Aug 7, 2021 at 4:45
  • 3
    It's a good idea to look at dictionaries which provide sample sentences taken from real sources. Lexico (formerly Oxford Dictionaries) and Word Hippo are especially useful. Remember to also type in the past tense of new words i.e. fabricated, too
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 7, 2021 at 7:51
  • 7
    Are you aware of the critical differences in underlying tone, register, and appropriateness that always result from selecting Germanic words like lie or speak falsely versus selecting Latinate words like fabricate, dissemble, or prevaricate? You cannot begin to understand when and why natives choose one term over the other until and unless you fully internalize this key concept about the lexis of the language.
    – tchrist
    Commented Aug 7, 2021 at 15:20
  • 3
    If you only recently learned this word I think you should be posting on English Language Learners, whether or not English is your native tongue. Please reread the sentence regarding the scope of this site in the Tour
    – David
    Commented Aug 7, 2021 at 18:04
  • 3
    I can't find an explicit reference, but as a native speaker it seems that "lie" (either a verb or a noun) has some connection with the act of speaking, but "fabricate" does not. For example you can fabricate a false document (e.g. a fake passport) ,but you can't "lie" a it. The Latin or French etymology of "fabricate" relates to making something, not saying something.
    – alephzero
    Commented Aug 8, 2021 at 23:08

4 Answers 4


As a commenter suggested, when we use fabricate in the context of deception,1 we imply that some effort went into inventing or producing something disingenuous, either a story or an artifact, like a fake document. If you simply said 'no' when you knew full well that the truth demanded 'yes', it is unlikely anyone would say that you 'fabricated' an answer. But everyone would agree that you lied.

1In other contexts, fabricate can mean simply to invent, create, or to construct, manufacture; specifically, to construct from diverse and usually standardized parts (Merriam-Webster).

On a formal grammatical side, fabricate is a transitive verb, while lie is most commonly intransitive.2 Normally, we simply say that e.g. he lied, or else we add a preposition phrase and say that he lied about [something]. In contrast, we say that he fabricated [something], as in he fabricated a story.

2Much more rarely, lie can also function as a transitive verb. Here is an example from Merriam-Webster: He lied his way out of trouble.

As far as the meaning, fabricate means 'To concoct in order to deceive' (fabricated a convincing excuse) (American Heritage); 'To "make up"; to frame or invent (a legend, lie, etc.); to forge (a document)' (Numerous lies, fabricated by the priests..were already in circulation; If any person..wilfully fabricate in whole or in part,..any voting paper.) (OED).

As for lie and similar words, Merriam-Webster has the following useful discussion:

lie, prevaricate, equivocate, palter, fib mean to tell an untruth. lie is the blunt term, imputing dishonesty. // lied about where he had been // prevaricate softens the bluntness of lie by implying quibbling or confusing the issue. // during the hearings the witness did his best to prevaricate // equivocate implies using words having more than one sense so as to seem to say one thing but intend another. // equivocated endlessly in an attempt to mislead her inquisitors // palter implies making unreliable statements of fact or intention or insincere promises. // a swindler paltering with his investors // fib applies to a telling of a trivial untruth. // fibbed about the price of the new suit //

  • Thanks for the plentiful additional information on top of the great answer, appreciate you!
    – Mint Bee
    Commented Aug 7, 2021 at 6:36
  • Non-European learners have little feel for what happens when choosing words from the Germanic part of the lexis versus those from the Romance part. It won't jump out at them and color everything the way it will for a native, since they aren't attuned to those origins. So they will pick words that don't match what natives would for a given case.
    – tchrist
    Commented Aug 7, 2021 at 15:29
  • 2
    Re: "He lied his way out of trouble": Interesting example! I'll have to think about this a bit more, but I think I'd be more inclined to say that even intransitive verbs license the "[...] one's way [...]" frame. (Note that even with transitive verbs, the semantic roles of, say, the "her" in "he charmed her" and the "his way" in "he charmed his way into her heart" are completely different.)
    – ruakh
    Commented Aug 8, 2021 at 2:46
  • I would add that in practice, it appears more common to call a lie a "prevarication" than it is to substitute the verb form of lie with "prevaricate."
    – cruthers
    Commented Aug 11, 2021 at 2:19

To fabricate originally was to make, and this is still one of the meanings. One can fabricate a story, a piece of cloth, or a car. To fabricate a story is to make it up, and the fabricated story is false because the truth does not need to be made up. To fabricate evidence is to make it (instead of discovering it. See https://en.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/fabricate

To lie is to tell a false statement intending it to be taken as the truth. If you tell your fabricated story as the truth then you have lied. If you present your fabricated evidence as real evidence you have also lied, and your research will be suspect even if your results are actually true.

To call a statement a fabrication is to say it was made up, and is therefore a lie instead of being the truth. These days the word is more often used in this sense than with the earlier meaning.

  • 1
    In Italian the word fabrica means factory, a building where workers make / manufacture goods. This seems to be the key to the difference between lie and fabricate, the latter requires greater effort and thought.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 7, 2021 at 7:59
  • "the word is more often used in this sense" seems unlikely, but then I do both metalwork and sewing as hobbies, so maybe hear the making-from-stock sense more often than most people. google.com/… has only one use of the 'lie' meaning in the first page Commented Aug 8, 2021 at 0:30
  • 1
    Technically, to lie is to tell a statement one believes to be false intending it to be taken as the truth. It's possible to lie, and yet be telling the truth, if one tells a statement, which one believes to be false, intending it to be taken as the truth, when said statement, unbeknownst to one, actually is true.
    – Vikki
    Commented Aug 8, 2021 at 17:22
  • @Vicki Quite correct. Even a complex lie may, by accident, turn out to be the truth.
    – Peter
    Commented Aug 8, 2021 at 23:20
  • 1
    Indeed, and "fabricating evidence" may be creating something to persuade people of the truth of something that is in fact true: my grandmother fabricated a birth certificate to prove she was born in Argentina, which is in fact where she was born. Commented Aug 9, 2021 at 17:09

To lie means to deliberately deceive by telling something that you know or at least believe to be false in the sense of not true. You tell something that you think is not real.

If you fabricate something, then it will be false in the sense of not being authentic – but it doesn't mean you necessarily think it's untrue. In fact, I reckon most people who fabricate something do it to support something they believe to be true, but can't prove honestly, so they make up something that they think represents the truth. This is then still deceit, but not a lie.

Of course you can also fabricate to support a lie, but this is not implied by the word.


Prevaricate is the word you want. It essentially means to lie but it’s nicer in, say, political debates than to say someone is a liar or mendacious.

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