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White lie

The term white lie is traced back at least as far as the 1740s, with the symbolic meanings attributed to black and white going back even farther. We will examine the definition of the term white lie, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

A white lie is a fib that is told to spare the feelings of the listener or so the teller may avoid minor repercussions. A white lie is considered harmless, and sometimes may even be considered a kindness. The term white lie was first used in the 1740s to describe a fib or exaggeration that is told as a way to embellish a good story. There is some discussion as to whether white lie is a racist term, though there is not a popular corresponding term such as black lie. White has long been associated with rightness, purity and goodness, and black with darkness and evil, but these connotations are most probably inspired by day and night, not race. For the most part, white lie is not considered an incendiary term. Nevertheless, some activists challenge certain uses of the words white and black in the English language, so it is wise to keep your audience in mind when using the term white lie.

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Examples

I learned that this was not a “white lie”; this was not the “your dress is a lovely color that compliments your hair” when the dress was truly an ugly shade of puce that looks more like dried blood than the purple of my “not-so-matching” shoes. (The Commercial News)

In the musical, protagonist Evan lets what he thinks is a white lie about his relationship with Connor, the classmate who took his own life, spiral out of control. (Variety Magazine)

You aren’t human if you don’t go through your day-to-day life without telling a little white lie. (The Birmingham Mail)

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