Diogenes Searching for an Honest Man, attributed to J. H. W. Tischbein (c. 1780)
Diogenes Searching for an Honest Man, attributed to J. H. W. Tischbein (c. 1780)

Honesty or truthfulness is a facet of moral character that connotes positive and virtuous attributes such as integrity, truthfulness, straightforwardness, including straightforwardness of conduct, along with the absence of lying, cheating, theft, etc. Honesty also involves being trustworthy, loyal, fair, and sincere.

Honesty is valued in many ethnic and religious cultures.[1][2][3][4][5] "Honesty is the best policy" is a proverb of Edwin Sandys (died 1629), while the quote "Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom" is attributed to Thomas Jefferson, as used in a letter to Nathaniel Macon.[6] April 30 is national Honesty Day in the United States.

William Shakespeare famously described honesty as an attribute people leave behind when he wrote that "no legacy is so rich as honesty" in act 3, scene 5 of "All's Well that Ends Well."[7]

Others have noted, however, that "too much honesty might be seen as undisciplined openness".[8] For example, individuals may be perceived as being "too honest" if they honestly express the negative opinions of others, either without having been asked their opinion, or having been asked in a circumstance where the response would be trivial. This concern manifests in the concept of political correctness, with individuals refraining from expressing their true opinions due to a general societal condemnation of such views. Research has also found that honesty can lead to interpersonal harm because people avoid information about how their honest behavior affects others.[9]


Merriam-Webster defines honesty as "fairness and straightforwardness of conduct" or "adherence to the facts".[10]

The Oxford English Dictionary defines honesty as "the quality of being honest."[11] Honest is, in turn, defined as "Free of deceit; truthful and sincere...Morally correct or virtuous...(attributive) Fairly earned, especially through hard work...(of an action) done with good intentions even if unsuccessful or misguided...(attributive) Simple, unpretentious, and unsophisticated.[12]

See also


  1. ^ Rogers, Carl R. (1964). "Toward a modern approach to values: The valuing process in the mature person.", The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 68(2):160–67.
  2. ^ Dahlsgaard, Katherine; Peterson, Christopher; Seligman, Martin E. P. (2005). "Shared Virtue: The Convergence of Valued Human Strengths Across Culture and History", Review of General Psychology, 9(3):203–13.
  3. ^ Hilbig, Benjamin E.; Zettler, Ingo (2009). "Pillars of cooperation: Honesty–Humility, social value orientations, and economic behavior", Journal of Research in Personality, 43(3):516–19.
  4. ^ Van Lange, Paul A. M.; Kuhlman, D. Michael (1994). "Social value orientations and impressions of partner's honesty and intelligence: A test of the might versus morality effect", Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67(1):126–41.
  5. ^ Schluter, Dolph; Price, Trevor (1993). "Honesty, Perception and Population Divergence in sexually Selected Traits", Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 253(1336):117–22.
  6. ^ "Thomas Jefferson to Nathaniel Macon". The Thomas Jefferson Papers Series 1. General Correspondence. 1651–1827. January 12, 1819.
  7. ^ William Shakespeare. All's Well That Ends Well MIT Shakespeare.
  8. ^ Barbara MacKinnon, Andrew Fiala (2015). Ethics: Theory and Contemporary Issues, Concise Edition, p. 93.[ISBN missing]
  9. ^ Levine, E.; Munguia Gomez, D. (2021). ""I'm just being honest." When and why honesty enables help versus harm". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 120 (1): 33–56. doi:10.1037/pspi0000242. PMID 32463271. S2CID 218977238 – via APA PsycNet.
  10. ^ Merriam-Webster (2017) Honesty Merriam-Webster.
  11. ^ Oxford English Dictionary (2017) Honesty OED.
  12. ^ Oxford English Dictionary (2017) Honest OED.