A Web of Lies

Let's face it, we all (or at least most of us) lie. Whether you just want to spare someone's feelings or want to get away with something you really shouldn't be doing, people bend the truth on occasion. It's no surprise, then, that there are so many words that describe the telling of untruths. Whether the motivation is malicious or kindhearted, there is a nuanced way to describe it. Here are fifteen words to describe liars and the webs they spin.

For the full article, check out Fudging It: A Lexicon of Lies

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. prevaricate
    be deliberately ambiguous or unclear
    People are prevaricating; distracting, making listeners believe things that aren’t always factually true.Salon (Nov 10, 2015)
    Prevaricate is a polite way to say that you have purposefully confused a situation by telling half-truths. The word comes from Latin praevaricatus, which literally means “to walk crookedly” a good metaphor for following the path of the habitual liar if there ever was one. Prevarication is intimately tied up with concept of evasion, when you don’t want to be nailed down to the facts or held to account.
  2. obfuscate
    make obscure or unclear
    Briefings are often—as the Ziegler example underscores—a means of obfuscating the truth.Slate (Apr 10, 2017)
  3. perfidy
    an act of deliberate betrayal
    Nicknamed "yahoo-yahoo" after the international web portal and search engine, this perfidy has become a way of life for the young con-artists.US News (Jul 28, 2016)
  4. mendacity
    the tendency to be untruthful
    Truth tellers are especially important and potentially vulnerable in an administration afflicted with serial mendacity.Washington Post (Mar 22, 2017)
    We all lie when cornered, but that doesn’t mean we exhibit mendacity or are mendacious. Mendacity is a character trait, something that defines you, which suggests that lying is an essential part of who you are. On both sides of the political aisle, it has become commonplace to suggest that someone you don’t like has a “casual relationship with the truth.” Someone who doesn’t take the truth seriously is showing mendacity.
  5. dissemble
    make believe with the intent to deceive
    She believes nothing and lies and dissembles casually.New York Times (Sep 24, 2016)
    Dissemble sounds like taking something apart, as if someone has said “disassemble” very fast. But rather than taking something apart, you can think of dissemble as constructing something, like a costume or a mask to hide one’s true self. The dissembler builds a disguise, either of fabric or words to conceal that which they don’t want exposed.
  6. deceit
    a misleading falsehood
    He displays “extreme narcissism,” the author argues, and he lies compulsively, with deceit as “an ingrained way of life.”Washington Post (Apr 13, 2017)
    Deceit comes from Latin decipere, which means “to ensnare, take in, beguile, cheat.” Every lie is, in one way or another, an attempt to ensnare someone in a story, to beguile them into believing you. To practice deceit is to mislead, and it gets to the core of what lying is all about.
  7. duplicity
    a fraudulent representation
    The mission of a news organization is to record accurately the course of events, including patterns of deception and duplicity.Washington Post (Dec 23, 2016)
    Duplicity comes from a Latin root that means “double” and this is another very popular characterization of the liar — they are presenting two very different selves to the world, and it becomes immediately unclear which of the two, if any, can be trusted.
  8. deception
    a misleading falsehood
    The most fascinating element of the story is watching a daring act of deception coalesce into the solid-seeming shape of history.Washington Post (May 8, 2017)
  9. fabrication
    a deliberately false or improbable account
    About a third of allegations of plagiarism, fabrication, piracy and misconduct were upheld.BBC (Mar 26, 2017)
  10. subterfuge
    something intended to misrepresent the nature of an activity
    Why do you believe that subterfuge and dishonesty are appropriate tactics to use on your wife?Slate (May 1, 2017)
    This word emphasizes the skill of the liar. To practice subterfuge one must be slick and stealthy, easily avoiding capture by the people you just “put one over on” who are now chasing you. If a student cheats on a test by writing the answers on their hand, it's not subterfuge. A conspiracy to supply an entire class with all the answers to all the tests for the semester is closer to subterfuge.
  11. fudge
    avoid or try to avoid fulfilling, answering, or performing
    Physically, teams will also get to see how much a player’s college fudged height and weight numbers.Washington Times (Feb 27, 2017)
    You can fudge your height or weight on a form, or fudge your way through a pop quiz when you didn't do all the reading the night before, but you can't fudge your testimony in a court of law when you are under oath. The word for that is perjury.
  12. falsehood
    an untrue statement
    The First Amendment protects the right of free speech, but defamation laws protect the innocent against malicious falsehoods.Wall Street Journal (Apr 30, 2017)
  13. perjury
    criminal offense of making false statements under oath
    Court documents alleged that Hatfield falsely reported the reasons for Lewis’ retirement, leading to a felony perjury charge against him.Washington Times (May 25, 2017)
  14. fraud
    deliberate trickery intended to gain an advantage
    I was afraid he would turn on me with disgust and accuse me of my fraud, but he still seemed flattered.Twilight

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