Lier or Liar: What’s the Difference?

Homophones are perpetually confusing to those who are not intimately familiar with a language. These words have identical pronunciations, but different meanings.

Lier and liar are two remarkable homophones, in that they derive from the multiple senses of the verb to lie. However, if you don’t use these words carefully, it could mean the difference between saying someone is not to be trusted, and saying someone is merely going to bed at the end of a long day.

Continue reading to find out whether you should choose lier or liar when referring to specific people in your life.

What is the Difference Between Lier and Liar?

In this post, I will compare lier vs. liar. I will explain when it is appropriate to use each word through example sentences.

I will also outline a mnemonic that you can use to help you remember what these words mean, and how to use them.

When to Use Liar

lier versus liarWhat does liar mean? Liar is a noun. A liar is a person who tells falsehoods.

For example,

  • Gemma said she would bring brownies to the party, but Gemma is a liar.
  • Alexis divorced Kurt because he turned out to be a liar and a thief.
  • D’Angelo quit his job because his boss was a serial liar who always took credit for others’ hard work.
  • Hillary Clinton has shrugged off Donald Trump’s charge that she’s a serial liar — but that’s precisely how she was described by a liberal Democratic activist to her campaign chair, John Podesta. –New York Post

In almost every conceivable example, when you are undecided between liar or lier, the word of which you are thinking is liar.

When to Use Lier

Definition of liar definition of lier definitionWhat does lier mean? Lier is also a noun, albeit a rarely used one. In fact, it’s so rarely used that most spell checks will label is a spelling error.

A lier is someone who assumes a horizontal position, for instance, on the ground, on a table, or on a bed.

This usage is uncommon, but here are some examples,

  • The lier lied down on 50 mattresses and scored them on various attributes, to determine which ones should qualify for the semifinals.
  • Arthur is a professional lier; protesters pay him to lie on the ground in front of bulldozers to halt property development.

Trick to Remember the Difference

Define liar define lier defineHere is a helpful trick to remember liar vs. lier.

Liar and lier are trickier than most other homophones. They each derive from the verb to lie, which can mean either to tell falsehoods or to recline horizontally. Thus, both liar and lier refer to one who lies.

The simplest way to tell the difference between these two words is by looking at spelling. Since liar shares an A with Benedict Arnold, a figure in American history infamous for falsehood, you can always remember that a liar is one who speaks things that are untrue.

Summary

Is it lier or liar? Even though lier and liar both refer to one who lies, the verb to lie has different senses.

  • A lier is one who assumes a horizontal position.
  • A liar is one who tells falsehoods.

These homophones’ spellings are specific to each context, and should never be reversed.

If you are ever unsure which word to use, you can recall that liar and Benedict Arnold are each spelled with the letter A. Benedict Arnold told many falsehoods before betraying his countrymen, so you can use this memory tool to link liar with falsehood in your mind.

In summary, a lier lies down, while a liar tells lies, like Benedict Arnold. Any time you have questions about confusing words, or other difficult aspects of writing, you can check this site for a quick refresher.

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