Truth is that which is in accord with reality, fact, and experience, that which is authentic. Truth can include facts, and truth can include a coherence with experience. The word in English derives from an older word similar to that meaning faithful (truth is that which is faithful to reality or experience), and ultimately is derived from a root meaning tree. To be truthful is to be as straight and strong as a tree. Other languages have words for truth (veritas, pravda, etc.) that have different derivations.

These quotations explore aspects of truth and truth-telling.

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When I’m telling you something don’t you ever ask if I’m lying. Because they didn’t want to leave no evidence of what they done—so it couldn’t be held against them. And I’m leaving evidence. And you got to leave evidence too. And your children got to leave evidence. And when it come time to hold up the evidence, we got to have evidence to hold up.

— Gayl Jones, Corregidora

All great truths begin as blasphemies.

— George Bernard Shaw

If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.

— George Bernard Shaw, sometimes misattributed to Oscar Wilde

And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed — if all records told the same tale — then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’

— George Orwell, 1984

“Who controls the past,” ran the Party slogan, “controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.”

— George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.

— George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

Political language–and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists–is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

— George Orwell

The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.

— Gloria Steinem

The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off.

— Gloria Steinem

Given a thimbleful of facts we rush to make generalizations as large as a tub.

— Gordon Willard Allport

Civilization is in a race between education and catastrophe. Let us learn the truth and spread it as far and wide as our circumstances allow. For the truth is the greatest weapon we have.

— H. G. Wells

Before mass leaders seize the power to fit reality to their lies, their propaganda is marked by its extreme contempt for facts as such, for in their opinion fact depends entirely on the power of man who can fabricate it.

— Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism

The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e., the standards of thought) no longer exist.

— Hannah Arendt

The truth is the kindest thing we can give folks in the end.

— Harriet Beecher Stowe

Be true to your work, your word, and your friend.

— Henry David Thoreau

I only desire sincere relations with the worthiest of my acquaintance, that they may give me an opportunity once in a year to speak the truth.

— Henry David Thoreau

It is one of the severest tests of friendship to tell your friend his faults. So to love a man that you cannot bear to see a stain upon him, and to speak painful truth through loving words, that is friendship.

— Henry Ward Beecher

A lie always needs a truth for a handle to it.

— Henry Ward Beecher

Whosoever wishes to know about the world must learn about it in its particular details.
Knowledge is not intelligence.
In searching for the truth be ready for the unexpected.
Change alone is unchanging.
The same road goes both up and down.
The beginning of a circle is also its end.
Not I, but the world says it: all is one.
And yet everything comes in season.

— Heraclitus

At every turn when there has been an imbalance of power, the truth questioned, or our beliefs and values distorted, the change required to restore our nation has always come from the bottom up from our people.

— Howard Dean

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

Theories have four stages of acceptance: i) this is worthless nonsense; ii) this is an interesting, but perverse, point of view; iii) this is true, but quite unimportant; iv) I always said so.

— J.B.S. Haldane

Now, my suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose… I suspect that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of, in any philosophy.

— J.B.S. Haldane

It is one thing to show a man that he is in an error, and another to put him in possession of the truth.

— John Locke

Besides, as the vilest Writer has his Readers, so the greatest Liar has his Believers; and it often happens, that if a Lie be believ’d only for an Hour, it has done its Work, and there is no farther occasion for it. Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it; so that when Men come to be undeceiv’d, it is too late; the Jest is over, and the Tale has had its Effect…

— Jonathan Swift

A man must be both stupid and uncharitable who believes there is no virtue or truth but on his own side.

— Joseph Addison

Nevertheless, a distinction must be made between skepticism as a philosophical thesis and skepticism as an attitude in life. As a philosophical thesis, it is a contradictory one, since it affirms the impossibility of knowing truth, although this affirmation itself claims to be true. Thus, skepticism as a thesis refutes itself in the very act of being formulated. The other aspect is different: this is the abstention from all judgments, skepticism in life, which neither affirms nor denies. This skepticism appears in history time and again, although here, too, it is doubtful whether human life can remain floating in this abstention without taking root in convictions.

— Julián Marías, History of Philosophy

Of life’s two chief prizes, beauty and truth, I found the first in a loving heart and the second in a laborer’s hand.

— Kahlil Gibran

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

— Karl Barth

Competence, like truth, beauty and contact lenses, is in the eye of the beholder.

— Laurence Peter and Raymond Hull, The Peter Principle
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