Lying usually means telling something we know is not true, or concealing what is true, in service of our personal gain or interest. Liars want, through their lie, to get ahead by looking more accomplished than they are, to flatter others, to protect themselves, to manipulate others, or for financial gain, among other rationales. Lying is deception, and is usually considered unethical, though some consider it a lesser evil to lie to protect others from harm. Lies undermine relationships, both close relationships and the network of relationships we call society.

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It is a general rule that when the grain of truth cannot be found, men will swallow great helpings of falsehood.

— Isaac Bashevis Singer, Yentl the Yeshiva Boy

Lying is the only art form that the public sanctions and instinctively prefers to reality.

— Jean Cocteau, Diary of an Unknown

Falsehood is the jockey of misfortune.

— Jean Giraudoux, Siegfried

We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.

— John F. Kennedy

The essence of lying is in deception, not in words.

— John Ruskin

I am not a liar. I am a journalist.

— Julian Assange

Man can certainly keep on lying (and does so), but he cannot make truth falsehood.

— Karl Barth

Life is a system of half-truths and lies, / Opportunistic, convenient evasion.

— Langston Hughes

I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives.

— Leo Tolstoy

If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.

— Louis D. Brandeis, Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357 (1927)

Man is the creature that cannot emerge from himself, that knows his fellows only in himself; when he asserts the contrary, he is lying.

— Marcel Proust

Lying is universal—we all do it. Therefore, the wise thing is for us diligently to train ourselves to lie thoughtfully, judiciously; to lie with a good object, and not an evil one; to lie for others’ advantage, and not our own; to lie healingly, charitably, humanely, not cruelly, hurtfully, maliciously; to lie gracefully and graciously, not awkwardly and clumsily; to lie firmly, frankly, squarely, with head erect, not haltingly, tortuously, with pusillanimous mien, as being ashamed of our high calling. Then shall we be rid of the rank and pestilent truth that is rotting the land; then shall we be great and good and beautiful, and worthy dwellers in a world where even benign Nature habitually lies, except when she promises execrable weather. Then—But I am but a new and feeble student in this gracious art; I cannot instruct this club.

— Mark Twain, On the Decay of the Art of Lying

A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.

— Mark Twain, attributed

A lie will fly around the whole world while the truth is getting its boots on.

— Mark Twain, posthumously credited, 1919

It is often the case that a man who can’t tell a lie thinks that he is the best judge of one.

— Mark Twain

One of the most striking differences between a cat and a lie is that a cat has only nine lives.

— Mark Twain

I have been a slave myself—I know what slaves feel—I can tell by myself what other slaves feel, and by what they have told me. The man that says slaves be quite happy in slavery—that they don’t want to be free—that man is either ignorant or a lying person. I never heard a slave say so.

— Mary Prince

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

— Maya Angelou, Still I Rise (1978)

I do myself a greater injury in lying than I do him of whom I tell a lie.

— Montaigne

It is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak the truth and expose lies.

— Noam Chomsky

Choose your leaders
with wisdom and forethought.
To be led by a coward
is to be controlled
by all that the coward fears.
To be led by a fool
is to be led
by the opportunists
who control the fool.
To be led by a thief
is to offer up
your most precious treasures
to be stolen.
To be led by a liar
is to ask
to be told lies.
To be led by a tyrant
is to sell yourself
and those you love
into slavery.

— Octavia E. Butler, Parable of the Talents

Fascists use patriotism and religion to manipulate dumb people. Fascist propaganda works best on the dumbest of the dumb. They don’t know when they’re being lied to.

— Oliver Markus Malloy, American Fascism: A German Writer’s Urgent Warning To America

Sin has many tools, but a lie is the handle which fits them all.

— Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

What we have to do, what at any rate it is our duty to do, is to revive the old art of Lying.

— Oscar Wilde

The final revelation is that Lying, the telling of beautiful untrue things, is the proper aim of Art.

— Oscar Wilde

People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war or before an election.

— Otto von Bismarck

Education is the attempt to ‘lead out’ from within the self a core of wisdom that has the power to resist falsehood and live in the light of truth, not by external norms but by reasoned and reflective self-determination.

— Parker J. Palmer

When we allow emotions to trump the intellect, we swallow “facts” that are demonstrably untrue, letting them fly around unchallenged in a mockery of civic discourse, supporting public figures who promote fictions to further their own cause.

— Parker J. Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit

Lying is the most fun a girl can have without taking her clothes off. But it’s better if you do.

— Patrick Marber, Closer

A universal skepticism is limited by its own criteria. If we assume it to be true, then it is false.

— Paul Kurtz

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile.
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

— Paul Laurence Dunbar, We Wear the Mask

A liar should have a good memory.

— Quintillian, Institutio Oratorio, C.E. 95

Truths will harmonize; and as for the falsities and mistakes, they will speedily die of themselves.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Every violation of truth is not only a sort of suicide in the liar, but is a stab at the health of human society.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, Prudence

Truth is beautiful, without doubt; but so are lies.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

To tell a falsehood is like the cut of a sabre; for though the wound may heal, the scar of it will remain.

— Sa’di

I do not mind lying, but I hate inaccuracy.

— Samuel Butler

Lying has a kind of respect and reverence with it. We pay a person the compliment of acknowledging his superiority whenever we lie to him.

— Samuel Butler, Truth and Convenience

The best liar is he who makes the smallest amount of lying go the longest way.

— Samuel Butler

A falsehood is, in one sense, a dead thing; but too often it moves about, galvanized by self-will, and pushes the living out of their seats.

— Samuel Taylor Coleridge

O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!

— Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

Lies are like a venom that spreads in your veins and poisons the whole body.

— Shannon L. Alder

False words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil.

— Socrates, in Phaedo, by Plato

Fiction is the truth inside the lie.

— Stephen King

Talkinges’ guy
An’ biggest liar,
With always a new lie
On the fire.

— Sterling A. Brown, Slim Greer

The truth may be out there, but the lies are inside your head.

— Terry Pratchett

Aware that words can create suffering or happiness, we are committed to learning to speak truthfully and constructively, using only words that inspire hope and confidence. We are determined not to say untruthful things for the sake of personal interest or to impress people, nor to utter words that might cause division or hatred. We will not spread news that we do not know to be certain nor criticize or condemn things of which we are not sure. We will do our best to speak out about situations of injustice, even when doing so may threaten our safety.

— Thich Nhat Hanh, Interbeing: Fourteen Guidelines for Engaged Buddhism

Is it more probable that nature should go out of her course or that a man should tell a lie? We have never seen, in our time, nature go out of her course. But we have good reason to believe that millions of lies have been told in the same time. It is therefore at least millions to one that the reporter of a miracle tells a lie.

— Thomas Paine

Lies travel faster than the truth.

— Thomas Shelby

Fortunately there have always been men whose larger minds could adapt themselves to the truth instead of narrowing the truth to them.

— Thomas Wentworth Higginson, The Sympathy of Religions
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