English Language Discussion Board > "bald-faced lie" or a "boldfaced lie"?
"bald-faced lie" or a "boldfaced lie"?
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599 posts
Jan 19, 2011
9:45 AM
Is it a "bald-faced lie" or a "boldfaced lie"?

Are both acceptable for the same meaning or is one preferred over the other in this context?


Last Edited by on Jan 19, 2011 9:46 AM
The Real Mudge
4774 posts
Jan 19, 2011
9:50 AM
From The American Heritage Dictionary:

"bald-faced adj. Brash; undisguised; a bald-faced lie."

"Boldfaced" is probably used in this context by people who mishear "bald-faced."
Rich Turner (The Curmudgeon Himself)

Last Edited by on Jan 19, 2011 9:54 AM
1128 posts
Jan 21, 2011
9:22 AM
I don't think the answer is that simple. There are many discussions of this question on the Internet. I think one of the better ones is here:

At least, this discussion goes into some of the issues surrounding this topic. However, some of these explanations may be apocryphal. They don't seem very scholarly. E.g., elsewhere I found an explanation of bold-faced related to the characteristics of bold fonts that makes them stand out, hence a bold-faced lie is one that stands out, I guess due to its boldness. That's not good etymology, in my opinion. The word "bold-faced" is not of recent origin.

The original term may very well have been bare-faced or bald-faced, and is supposedly related to not having a beard (which might cover up facial expressions that would give away the fact that a person was lying). In other words, they were lying so well, that even if they didn't have a beard you couldn't tell. I guess that's what it means. But then, does that mean that a bearded person couldn't tell a bald-faced lie? I'm not so sure about the accuracy of this either, but I'll take it at face value. :)

While that may be an accurate answer for which is correct, it's also merely historical, and, in my opinion, rather anachronistic. In other words, it may have come by its meaning in that fashion, but how relevant is that today, when the understanding of how this relates to beards is rather unknown? Words change over time, and I think this one is ripe for replacement with "bold-faced." In today's lexicon, I think this would be taken to mean lying with a bold facial expression, making the lie blatant, and covered up by the bold expression of the speaker, who is using his boldness to try to convince you of his false veracity. That makes a lot more sense today than bald-faced, which to many people may be rather devoid of any innate meaning.

For an authority on this meaning, in addition to a Shakespeare quote, the webpage I mentioned as this:

Here is what the OED says about "boldfaced":
"Having a bold or confident face or look; usually impudent. Hence bold-facedness n.

That could easily apply to how someone lies, so there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with "bold-faced." In fact, I actually prefer it over the term bald-faced, which seems archaic to me.

Last Edited by on Jan 21, 2011 9:24 AM

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