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Line breaks: hon¦est
Pronunciation: /ˈɒnɪst

Definition of honest in English:


1Free of deceit; truthful and sincere: I haven’t been totally honest with you
More example sentences
  • For a transaction of this magnitude to be successful, all parties involved must be honest, sincere and truthful to one another.
  • As a Republican, I sincerely thank you for your honest, open, sincere and thoughtful dialogue.
  • Remember, your compliments must be honest, sincere and genuine.
1.1Morally correct or virtuous: I did the only right and honest thing
More example sentences
  • ‘From the beginning we have been asking for fair and honest elections,’ he said.
  • All but four members of the commission said that the last election was fair and honest.
  • I believe that only a truly even-handed approach can lead to an honest, morally convincing, and effective human rights policy.
virtuous, good, worthy, decent, law-abiding, high-minded, upstanding, just, fair, incorruptible, anti-corruption, truthful, true, veracious, trustworthy, trusty, reliable, conscientious, scrupulous, reputable, dependable, loyal, faithful
informal on the level, honest-to-goodness
1.2 [attributive] Fairly earned, especially through hard work: he’s struggling to make an honest living
More example sentences
  • These are innocent people just trying to earn an honest living, but who end up the real victims.
  • Workers, often women, take risks to earn an honest living.
  • And the woman draws herself up and delivers a stirring dialogue on her right to stay there and earn an honest living.
1.3(Of an action) done with good intentions even if unsuccessful or misguided: he’d made an honest mistake
More example sentences
  • Bob's position was an honest attempt to achieve something real.
  • The forums were honest, objective attempts to address the facts, and they have succeeded beyond our expectations.
  • I think it was an honest and reasonable mistake for them to make at the time.
1.4 [attributive] Simple, unpretentious, and unsophisticated: good honest food with no gimmicks
More example sentences
  • It is an honest, simple pie, and we extol its simplicities.
  • It is a simple, delicate, honest piece of work that strikes so many chords it could almost be music itself.
  • In all the nostalgic celebrations, the impression is inevitably created that blues is some kind of touchstone for a simpler and more honest past: feel-good music for white people.


informal Back to top  
Used to persuade someone of the truth of something: you’ll like it when you get there, honest
More example sentences
  • I've been neglecting my journal but I'm determined to try harder, honest.


Middle English (originally in the sense 'held in or deserving of honour'): via Old French from Latin honestus, from honos (see honour).


earn (or turn) an honest penny

Earn money fairly.
Example sentences
  • In his early years he also sold a variety of articles like accordions, concertinas and mouth-organs, costume accessories and polish - anything indeed which would turn an honest penny.
  • They are a prime example, having never earned an honest penny in their miserable lives.
  • The only offer he got was from a fellow-lodger, a young man who earned an honest penny by playing a tin whistle on the streets.

make an honest woman of

dated or humorous Marry a woman, especially to avoid scandal if she is pregnant.
[honest here originally meant 'respectable', but was probably associated with the archaic sense 'chaste']
Example sentences
  • I hear you're making an honest woman of my sister.
  • Have you been putting off making an honest woman of your partner?
  • A source close to the couple recently revealed: ‘David's really keen to make an honest woman of Catherine - they've never talked about their relationship in public but they definitely see a long future together.’

to be honest

Speaking frankly: to be honest, I expected to play worse
More example sentences
  • I never really thought it would happen and, to be honest, I still don't think it will.
  • It's about an hour after the game and I'm still in a state of shock, to be honest.
  • To say I broke my foot playing football is, to be honest, stretching the truth somewhat.

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