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By a lie a man throws away and, as it were, annihilates his dignity as a man. ~ Immanuel Kant
Lying is the same as alcoholism. Liars prevaricate even on their deathbeds. ~ Anton Chekhov
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. ~ Moses

Lying is the act of making a statement that the speaker knows to be untrue. It is a form of dishonesty.

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  • FIB, n. A lie that has not cut its teeth. An habitual liar's nearest approach to truth: the perigee of his eccentric orbit.
    • Ambrose Bierce, The Cynic's Dictionary (1906); republished as The Devil's Dictionary (1911).
  • LIAR, n. A lawyer with a roving commission.
    • Ambrose Bierce, The Cynic's Dictionary (1906); republished as The Devil's Dictionary (1911).
  • If a lie is only printed often enough, it becomes a quasi-truth, and if such a truth is repeated often enough, it becomes an article of belief, a dogma, and men will die for it.
    • Isa Blagden, The Crown of a Life (London: Hurst and Blackett, 1869), Vol. III, Ch. XI; p. 155.
  • Untruths are thieves, robbing us of our birthright.
  • And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, and from idle chatter: This is called right speech.
    • Gautama Buddha, Maha-cattarisaka Sutta, Pali Canon, as translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.
  • Having abandoned false speech, the recluse Gotama abstains from falsehood. He speaks only the truth, he lives devoted to truth; trustworthy and reliable, he does not deceive anyone in the world.
  • Resolved to die in the last dyke of prevarication.
  • Quoth Hudibras, I smell a rat;
    Ralpho, thou dost prevaricate.
  • And, after all, what is a lie? 'Tis but
    The truth in masquerade.
  • I tell him, if a clergyman, he lies!
    If captains the remark, or critics, make,
    Why they lie also—under a mistake.




  • Mankind are not held together by lies. Trust is the foundation of society. Where there is no truth, there can be no trust, and where there is no trust, there can be no society. Where there is society, there is trust, and where there is trust, there is something upon which it is supported.
  • To lie is so vile, that even if it were in speaking well of godly things it would take off something from God's grace; and Truth is so excellent, that if it praises but small things they become noble.
    • Leonardo da Vinci, The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci (1938), XIX Philosophical Maxims. Morals. Polemics and Speculations., as translated by Edward MacCurdy.
  • Beyond a doubt truth bears the same relation to falsehood as light to darkness; and this truth is in itself so excellent that, even when it dwells on humble and lowly matters, it is still infinitely above uncertainty and lies, disguised in high and lofty discourses; because in our minds, even if lying should be their fifth element, this does not prevent that the truth of things is the chief nutriment of superior intellects, though not of wandering wits. But you who live in dreams are better pleased by the sophistical reasons and frauds of wits in great and uncertain things, than by those reasons which are certain and natural and not so far above us.
    • Leonardo da Vinci, The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci (1938), XIX Philosophical Maxims. Morals. Polemics and Speculations., as translated by Edward MacCurdy.
  • Fire is to represent truth because it destroys all sophistry and lies; and the mask is for lying and falsehood which conceal truth.
    • Leonardo da Vinci, The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci (1938), X Studies and Sketches for Pictures and Decorations, as translated by Edward MacCurdy.


  • Lying is such a central characteristic of life that better understanding of it is relevant to almost all human affairs. Some might shudder at that statement, because they view lying as reprehensible.
    • Paul Ekman, Telling Lies, W. W. Norton & Company, New York-London, (1991), ch.1, p. 23.
  • What I have termed micro expressions, very fast facial movements lasting less than one-fifth of a second, are one important source of leakage, revealing an emotion a person is trying to conceal. A false expression can be betrayed in a number of ways: it is usually very slightly asymmetrical, and it lacks smoothness in the way it flows on and off the face.
    • Paul Ekman, Emotions Revealed, Times Books, (2003), ch. 1, p. 15.






  • I always divide people into two groups. Those who live by what they know to be a lie, and those who live by what they believe, falsely, to be the truth.
  • Half the world knows not how the other half lies.
  • Show me a liar, and I will show thee a thief.
  • Children and fooles can not ly.
  • Trump undermines the free press because he wants to be the only legitimate source of information in society. He lies all the time to break down the processes by which we discern the truth about the world around us, and compile the observations and facts which make up the tapestry of reality. He has exposed the paper-thin vulnerability of our democratic society, which depends mightily on observing social norms—like yielding to shame—and a shared acceptance of some common set of truths.

    The American president is determined to bulldoze this architecture of social structures, and usher in an era where force, not deliberation and cooperation, determines the path our society will take. If he never acknowledges any truth besides his own, he never has to do anything outside his own direct interests. He does not have to actually respond to any kind of criticism, or ever reconsider his course of action. Relentless lying, after all, is a form of coercion, in which you bend others to your will by forcing them to accept the infrastructure of your false reality—or to give up caring whether anything is true or false in the first place. Don't believe your eyes and ears. Everybody was cheering for me.


  • You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
    • John 8:44, English Standard Version
  • Education has paralleled the life of prospering white America: it has been characterized by reverence for efficiency, cultivation of competence unattended by concern for aim, big white lies, and the mainly successful blackout of Black life.
    • June Jordan, "Black Studies: Bringing Back The Person," Evergreen Review, October 1969


  • One tells as few lies as possible only by telling as few lies as possible, and not by having the least possible opportunity to do so.
  • By a lie a man throws away and, as it were, annihilates his dignity as a man. A man who himself does not believe what he tells another […] has even less worth than if he were a mere thing […] makes himself a mere deceptive appearance of man, not man himself.
    • Immanuel Kant, Doctrine of Virtue as translated by Mary J. Gregor (1964), p. 93.
  • His supposed mythomania [of Diego Rivera] is in direct relation to his tremendous imagination. That is to say, he is as much of a liar as the poets or as the children who have not yet been turned into idiots by school or mothers. I have heard him tell all kinds of lies: from the most innocent, to the most complicated stories about people whom his imagination combined in a fantastic situation or actions, always with a great sense of humor and a marvelous critical sense; but I have never heard him say a single stupid or banal lie. Lying, or playing at lying, he unmasks many people, he learns the interior mechanism of others, who are much more ingenuously liars than he, and the most curious thing about the supposed lies of Diego, is that in the long and short of it, those who are involved in the imaginary combination become angry, not because of the lie, but because of the truth contained in the lie, that always comes to the surface.
    • Frida Kahlo on Diego Rivera, in Portrait of Diego [Retrato de Diego] (22 January 1949), first published in Hoy (Mexico City) and posthumously (17 July 1955) in Novedades (Mexico City): "México en la Cultura"


  • Drummond: All shine, and no substance! Bert, whenever you see something bright, shining, perfect-seeming—all gold, with purple spots—look behind the paint! And if it’s a lie—show it up for what it really is!


  • My body aches from mistakes betrayed by lust
    We lied to each other so much that in nothing we trust.
    • Trust, from the album Cryptic Writings by Megadeth, written by Dave Mustaine and Marty Friedman
  • By telling a single lie to oneself or to another, by denying a single fact of the world as it has been created, one adds to the World’s Pain.


  • False words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil.
  • The Book of Daniel is especially fitted to be a battle-ground between faith and unbelief. It admits of no half-way measures. It is either Divine or an imposture. To write any book under the name of another, and to give it out to be his, is, in any case, a forgery, dishonest in itself, and destructive of all trustworthiness. But the case as to the Book of Daniel, if it were not his, would go far beyond even this. The writer, were he not Daniel, must have lied on a most frightful scale.


  • To lapse in fulness
    Is sorer than to lie for need, and falsehood
    Is worse in kings than beggars.
  • Lord, Lord, how this world is given to lying! I grant you I was down and out of breath; and so was he: but we rose both at an instant and fought a long hour by Shrewsbury clock.
  • Whose tongue soe'er speaks false,
    Not truly speaks; who speaks not truly, lies.
  • An evil soul producing holy witness
    Is like a villain with a smiling cheek;
    A goodly apple rotten at the heart:
    O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!
  • It is better to be poor and walk in integrity than to be stupid and speak lies.
  • A lie never lives to be old.

  • An occasional little white lie such as Weston's probably won't cause any lasting damage. And at times, telling the truth—particularly the whole truth to a child who's not at an age to handle it—may do more harm than good, they say.
  • I mean you lie—under a mistake.
    • Jonathan Swift, Polite Conversation (c. 1738), Dialogue 1. Same phrase used by De Quincey, Southey, Landor.
  • If you want truth to go round the world you must hire an express train to pull it. But if you want a lie to go round the world, it will fly; it is light as a feather and a breath will carry it.
    • Charles Spurgeon, Sermons delivered in Exeter Hall, Strand, during the enlargement of New Park Street Chapel, Southmark, (1855)


  • But he that sows lies in the end shall not lack of a harvest, and soon he may rest from toil indeed, while others reap and sow in his stead.
  • The glory which is built upon a lie soon becomes a most unpleasant incumbrance. … How easy it is to make people believe a lie, and how hard it is to undo that work again!
    • Mark Twain, Autobiographical dictation, 2 December 1906. Published in Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 2 (University of California Press, 2013)
  • “I don’t think he (Branch Rickey) would lie,” said Red Smith, “but he was so good at evasion, at circumlocution, that he didn’t have to lie.”
    • Jules Tygiel, Baseball’s Great Experiment (revised edition 1997), Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-510620-2, p. 48


  • When hope lies dead—ah, when 'tis death to live,
    And wrongs remembered make the heart still bleed,
    Better are Sleep's kind lies for Life's blind need
    Than truth, if lies a little peace can give.
    • Theodore Watts-Dunton, "Prophetic Pictures at Venice II: The Temptation", in The Coming of Love and Other Poems (London: John Lane, 1897), p. 199


  • Now all the truth is out,
    Be secret and take defeat
    From any brazen throat,
    For how can you compete,
    Being honor bred, with one
    Who, were it proved he lies,
    Were neither shamed in his own
    Nor in his neighbors’ eyes?
    • W. B. Yeats, “To a Friend whose Work has come to Nothing”

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 485-87.
  • A giurar presti i mentitor son sempre.
  • Se non volea pulir sua scusa tanto,
    Che la facesse di menzogna rea.
    • But that he wrought so high the specious tale,
      As manifested plainly 'twas a lie.
    • Ludovico Ariosto, Orlando Furioso (1516), XVIII. 84.
  • And none speaks false, when there is none to hear.
  • You lie—under a mistake—
    For this is the most civil sort of lie
    That can be given to a man's face, I now
    Say what I think.
    • Calderon, El Magico Prodigioso, scene 1. Translation by Shelley.
  • Ita enim finitima sunt falsa veris ut in præcipitem locum non debeat se sapiens committere.
    • So near is falsehood to truth that a wise man would do well not to trust himself on the narrow edge.
    • Cicero, Academici, IV. 21.
  • Mendaci homini ne verum quidem dicenti credere solemus.
    • A liar is not believed even though he tell the truth.
    • Cicero, De Divinatione, II. 71. Same idea in Phædrusm Fables, I, 10, 1.
  • The silent colossal National Lie that is the support and confederate of all the tyrannies and shams and inequalities and unfairnesses that afflict the peoples—that is the one to throw bricks and sermons at.
  • An experienced, industrious, ambitious, and often quite picturesque liar.
  • Un menteur est toujours prodigue de serments.
  • Il faut bonne mémoire après qu'on a menti.
  • Some truth there was, but dash'd and brew'd with lies,
    To please the fools, and puzzle all the wise.
  • Wenn ich irre kann es jeder bemerken; wenn ich lüge, nicht.
  • As ten millions of circles can never make a square, so the united voice of myriads cannot lend the smallest foundation to falsehood.
  • Dare to be true: nothing can need a lie;
    A fault which needs it most, grows two thereby.
  • Sin has many tools, but a lie is the handle which fits them all.
  • Who dares think one thing, and another tell,
    My heart detests him as the gates of hell.
    • Homer, The Iliad, Book IX, line 412. Pope's translation.
  • Urge him with truth to frame his fair replies;
    And sure he will; for wisdom never lies.
    • Homer, The Odyssey, Book III, line 25. Pope's translation.
  • For my part getting up seems not so easy
    By half as lying.
  • Splendide mendax.
    • Splendidly mendacious.
    • Horace, Carmina, III. 11. 35.
  • Round numbers are always false.
    • Samuel Johnson, Johnsoniana; Apothegms, Sentiment, etc. From Hawkins' Collective Edition.
  • Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus.
    • False in one thing, false in everything.
    • Law Maxim.
  • Qui ne sent point assez ferme de memoire, ne se doit pas mêler d'être menteur.
    • Who is not sure of his memory should not attempt lying.
    • Michel de Montaigne, Of Liars, Book I, Chapter IX.
  • Hercle audivi esse optimum mendacium.
    Quicquid dei dicunt, id rectum est dicere.
    • By Hercules! I have often heard that your piping-hot lie is the best of lies: what the gods dictate, that is right.
    • Plautus, Mostellaria, III. 1. 134.
  • Playing the Cretan with the Cretans (i.e. lying to liars).
    • Plutarch, quoting a Greek proverb used by Paulus Æmilius.
  • I said in my haste, All men are liars.
    • Psalms. CXVI. 11.
  • Mendacem memorem esse oportet.
    • It is fitting that a liar should be a man of good memory.
    • Quintilian, IV. 2. 91.
  • Ce mensonge immortel.
    • That immortal lie.
    • Rev. Père de Ravignan. Found in Poujoulat's Sa Vie, ses Œuvres.
  • This shows that liars ought to have good memories.
  • A lie never lives to be old.
  • That a lie which is half a truth is ever the blackest of lies;
    That a lie which is all a lie may be met and fought with outright—
    But a lie which is part a truth is a harder matter to fight.
  • And he that does one fault at first,
    And lies to hide it, makes it two.
  • An animal may be cunning and ferocious enough, but it takes a real man to tell a lie.
  • I give him joy that's awkward at a lie.
    • Edward Young, Night Thoughts (1742-1745), Night VIII, line 361.

See also

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