What Does Many a Truth is Said In Jest Mean?

Many a Truth is Said in Jest Meaning

Definition: Sometimes a person says something true, but in a joking manner.

Origin of Many a Truth is Said in Jest

This expression comes from the English writer Geoffrey Chaucer. It appeared in Canterbury Tales in a slightly alternative form,

  • A man may seye full sooth in game and pley.

This phrase has been repeated throughout the years as a way to say that say that some people hide or conceal the truth inside a joke. Or, that despite the fact that something is a joke, it can still contain a layer of truth.

Examples of Many a Truth is Said in Jest

many a true word is spoken in jestIn this dialogue, two employees are discussing their boss.

Deanna: Wayne is acting weird again. I told him a few months ago that I needed to take a vacation, and I even put in the appropriate papers and everything. Then, I reminded him that I would be gone for two weeks right before I took my vacation. When I returned to work today, he told me he thought I had quit!

Emily: He’s getting more and more forgetful. He’s pretty old, and I wonder if he is starting to get dementia.

Deanna: I know. That’s what I thought, too, and I said that to another coworker. Wayne overheard me, and was very offended. I tried to tell him I was just joking, but I don’t think he believed me.

Emily: Well, he might have believed you, but he probably knows that many a truth is said in jest.

truth in jest meaningIn the second example, two baseball players are discussing some insults that the other team said to them.

Billy: Did you hear the other team making fun of our new uniforms? I knew we should have never gotten multicolored uniforms.

Angie: I didn’t hear it. What did they say?

Billy: They said it looked like a rainbow threw up on us. We should have just kept our old, traditional uniforms.

Angie: Don’t be so sensitive. They were just joking.

Billy: But many a truth is said in jest, and it’s true what they said. We look ridiculous.

More Examples

This excerpt is about a politician who wants to join the prison reform movement.

  • He went on to say that we could still be very successful working only 70 to 80 hours a week. He meant it as a joke and everyone laughed, but many a truth is said in jest, and the people that continued to give their lives to the company continued to reap the rewards. –Huffington Post

This excerpt is about a basketball player.

  • Kerr once quipped of his team’s appeal, “We have a very likable group of guys — other than Draymond.” The comment was said with a smile, meant with mirth. A lot of truth is said in jest, as the saying goes. –ESPN


The saying many a truth is said in jest means that just because someone says something funny, doesn’t mean that it isn’t also true.

Sometimes people joke in order to gently let someone know an unpleasant fact about that person.