Definition of honest in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈɒnɪst/


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.
truthful, sincere, candid, frank, direct, open, forthright, straight, straightforward, genuine, blunt, plain-spoken, plain-speaking, matter-of-fact, outspoken, as straight as a die, straight from the shoulder
informal upfront
archaic free-spoken
objective, impartial, unbiased, balanced, unprejudiced, disinterested, even-handed, fair, just, equitable
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.
morally correct, upright, honourable, moral, ethical, principled, righteous, right-minded, respectable;
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.
genuine, real, authentic, actual, true;
legitimate, above board, fair and square;
Latin bona fide
informal legit, kosher, on the level, honest-to-goodness
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.


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.



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.


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

  • honour from Middle English:

    Latin honor is the source of honour and of honest and honesty (both Middle English). The idea that there is honour among thieves was expressed even in the early 17th century. The English philosopher Jeremy Bentham was the first to put it in print in its modern form when he wrote in 1802: ‘A sort of honour may be found (according to a proverbial saying) even among thieves.’ The plant honesty is named from its diaphanous seed pods, translucency symbolizing lack of deceit.

Words that rhyme with honest


For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: hon¦est

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