Liar vs. lier

  • The verb lie has two sets of definitions. First, it refers to someone or something that reclines, rests in a horizontal position, or is situated in a specified place. Someone or something that does one of these things is a lier. A lier on the floor, for instance, risks getting stepped on. The second main definition of lie is to make a statement one knows to be false. One who does this is a liar.



    Lier is rare—it in fact appears more commonly as a surname and as a misspelling of liar—so examples such as the ones below are not easy to find. We had to go back to the 19th century (partly because any actual instances of lier on the web are buried under the millions of misspellings of liar):


    A lier in bed may be allowed to profess a disinterested indifference for his health or longevity. [“Getting Up on Cold Mornings,” Leigh Hunt (c. 1830)]

    This food, which consists chiefly of dipterous or two winged insects, is captured as they cross the perch of the bird, so that it is a lier in wait, and springs upon its prey. [The British Cyclopaedia (1838)]

    What was his surprise when he drew near the place of ambush to find it occupied by other liers in-wait ! [A New Life of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Walter  Denning (1904)]

    Liar, as used in these examples, is far more common:

    Tagg Romney, 42, told a talk-radio host this week that hearing his father described as a liar … made him want to “take a swing at” President Obama. [Los Angeles Times]

    Two men circling, talking over each other, drawing on different facts and calling each other liars looked like a metaphor for much that has gone wrong in American political culture. [Mail & Guardian Online]

    As for her supposed lies, if every politician who backflips is a liar, then every coffee-drinking athlete is a drug cheat. [The Australian]


    1. Informative

    2. and now i know

    3. What about lyer, as in I went to lye down.

    4. Good! I faced this question and doubt today! Thank you for clearing that up. I could have made an ass of myself! ;)

    5. Out-liers . . . those people, places, or things, that are “not mainstream”, or “of the norm”.

    6. Sander Vannieuwenhuyse says

      Now I’m confident that I can correct people correctly :P

      • Loneieagle says

        You must get a lot of practice correcting people when they misspell or mispronounce your last name. :-)

    7. David Susen says

      It is good feeling to know that you are grammatically correct…for people like me who are far far from an expert.

    8. Hillary Clinton says

      Lies! Lies!

    About Grammarist
    Contact | Privacy policy | Home
    © Copyright 2009-2014 Grammarist