What Does Honest to a Fault Mean?

Honest to a Fault Meaning

Definition: Very honest; truthful even at one’s own detriment.

Origin of Honest to a Fault

Some people believe it is important to always tell the truth, no matter what. Others believe that small lies can be helpful in some situations.

For example, imagine if someone wasn’t looking where they were walking, and they walked straight into a light pole. They might be embarrassed, and ask their friend, “Did anyone see that?” Even if the friend knew that other people did see, he might lie and say that no one saw just to make the embarrassed person feel better.

Someone who is honest to a fault would tell the truth.

Another example might be if a wife asks her husband if a certain outfit makes her look fat. If the husband is honest to a fault, he might reply by saying “yes.”

People use the expression to a fault with other adjectives as an intensifier to mean to a great degree. A common example is generous to a fault; loyal to a fault, good to a fault, etc.

This expression originated in the 1800s.

Examples of Honest to a Fault

loyal to a fault meaning The dialogue below shows two friends talking about what outfit to wear to a party.

Giuseppe: May, do you think I should wear this shirt to the party?

May: Sure, if you like it. You’ll look good in anything! Do you think I should wear this dress to the party?

Giuseppe: No. It makes you look like a jellyfish.

May: Hmm. Well, the way you said that was a little hurtful, but I guess it’s better for me to know now. At least now I won’t embarrass myself by wearing it in front of all my other friends. I guess I appreciate that you are honest to a fault. In the same spirit, I think you should wear a different shirt. That one makes you look like a pirate.

define honest to a fault In the dialogue below, a father is talking to his daughter about some plans for tomorrow.

Rafal: I’m going to call your school tomorrow and tell them you can’t come because you have a doctor’s appointment.

Vesna: I didn’t know I had a doctor’s appointment.

Rafal: You don’t, but that is just the excuse that we will use so that we can have a fun day off together!

Vesna: No, that’s lying. It’s wrong to lie.

Rafal: I guess you’re right. Sometimes I wish you weren’t honest to a fault so that we could have more fun.

More Examples

This excerpt is about how a coach (Trotz) changed his feelings towards one of his players (Ovechkin) over time.

  • Trotz said one reason why Ovechkin is viewed as difficult is that he is always honest to a fault. “Ovi will tell you exactly what he thinks,” Trotz said. “Other players will tell you what you want them to think.” –USA Today

The second excerpt is about a city that doesn’t try to hide its true situation.

  • Spend a few days in Akron and you realize it is a city that is honest to a fault. No one tries to paint over the problems, or makes blustering promises that they can be eradicated easily, or swiftly. –USA Today


The phrase honest to a fault describes a person who never tells a lie, even if it means bringing harm or discomfort to him.