English idioms relating to HONESTY - DISHONESTY
|Above board|| If a situation or business is described as above board, it is open,
honest and legal.
"There are no secret negotiations. Our dealings have always been
| Barefaced liar
|| Someone who lies easily, with a total lack of shame, is called a
"That barefaced liar stole my watch and said he'd found it!"
|Bend the truth||
If you bend the truth, you say something that is not entirely true.
"OK, I bent the truth a bit; I told him it was my natural colour,
but I didn't say that my hairdresser helped me to keep it natural!"
|The benefit of the doubt|| If you give somebody the benefit of the doubt, you choose
believe that the person is innocent, honest or telling the truth, because
there is no evidence to the contrary.
"Although he found it hard to believe Tom's explanation, the teacher
decided to give him the benefit of the doubt."
|Black market|| The black market refers to the
illegal buying and selling
of goods or currencies.
|Break every rule in the book.|| If you behave in a completely unacceptable way, you break every
rule in the book.
"Our competitors obtained the contract by breaking every rule in the
|In cahoots with someone||
If one person is in cahoots with another, they are
working in close
partnership, usually conspiring to do something dishonest.
"There was a rumour that the Mayor was in cahoots with a chain of
|Put/lay your cards on the table||
If you put your cards on the table, you speak honestly and openly
about your feelings and intentions.
"Let's clear the air and put our cards on the table."
|Catch someone red-handed|| If
a person is caught red-handed,
they are caught while they are doing
something wrong or illegal.
"The boy was caught red-handed stealing a CD in a shop."
|Cook the books|| A
person who cooks the books is one who changes the facts or
in their financial accounts, often in order to steal money.
"The actor discovered after a while that his agent was cooking the books."
|Crooked as a dog's hind leg|| To say that someone is as crooked as a dog's hind leg means
that they are very dishonest indeed.
"He can't be trusted - he's as crooked as a dog's hind leg."
|Daylight robbery|| The term 'daylight robbery' is used when the price of something
thought to be much too high.
"$10 for an orange juice? That's daylight robbery!"
|Economical with the truth|| To say that a person is economical with the truth means that,
actually lying, they omit important facts or give incomplete information.
"The politician was accused of being economical with the truth."
|Face value|| If you take something at its face value, you assume that
genuinely what it appears to be.
"The car seems to be in good condition, but don't take it at its face
value; get a mechanic to check it out."
|Fair and square|| If something is obtained or won fair
and square, it is
done in an
honest and open manner, the rules are respected and there is no
cheating or lying.
"Peter won the competition fair and square - there was no doubt
about the result."
|Fall off the back of a lorry|| If you buy goods that have fallen off the
back of a lorry, they are
"Judging by the price of that camera, it must have fallen off the back
of a lorry!"
|False pretences|| If you obtain something under false pretences, you deceive others
by lying about your identity, qualifications, financial or social position,
in order to obtain what you want..
"She obtained the interview under false pretences."
|Feather one's nest|| To say of someone that they are feathering their nest means that
they are taking advantage of their position in order to obtain money
so as to have a comfortable life.
|Five-finger discount|| If somebody gets a five-finger discount, they take
paying. In other words, they steal.
"How could he afford that watch?" "Who knows - perhaps with a five-finger
|Fly-by-night|| A 'fly-by-night' person, business or venture is considered
because they operate briefly and disappear overnight.
"I bought it in one of those fly-by-night stores and now I can't exchange
it. The place has closed down."
|Funny business|| An activity which is conducted in a deceitful, dishonest or
manner is called funny business.
"I've got suspicions about that association. I think they're up to some
|Grease somebody's palm|| If you accuse someone of greasing somebody's palm,
you are accusing
them of giving money to someone in order to gain an unfair advantage, or
to obtain something they want.
"In some countries, it is common practice to grease government officials'
|Hand in glove|| Two or more people who are in collusion, or work in close association,
are said to be hand in glove.
"After the match, it was discovered that he was hand in glove with the
|Ill-gotten gains|| Money, profit or benefits that are made in a dishonest or illegal
manner are called ill-gotten gains.
"He won money by cheating and is now enjoying his ill-gotten gains."
|Lead somebody up the garden path|| If someone leads you up the garden path, they deceive you
by making you believe something which is not true.
"I still haven't got a promotion. I think my boss is
leading me up the garden path!"
|Lie through your teeth|| If you lie through your teeth, you lie openly and brazenly,
knowing that what you are saying is completely false.
"I saw him breaking the window. If he denies it, he's lying through
|Live a lie|| If you spend your life hiding something important about
or inventing something which is not true, you live a lie.
"To hide his humble origins, he told his wife he had no family and
spent his life living a lie."
When people launder money, they manage to conceal the source
of illegally-obtained money so that it is believed to be legitimate.
"Certain countries have been accused of facilitating money laundering."
An activity which is organized in a deceitful or dishonest way is
called monkey business.
"The results announced seem suspicious - I think there's some
monkey business going on!"
|Oldest trick in the book|| A well-known and much-used trick, which is still
is called the oldest trick in the book.
"He made a noise to attract my attention while his accomplice stole
my wallet. It's the oldest trick in the book!"
|On the level||
If you say that somebody is on the level, you are referring to a
and honest person.
"Tell me straight : Is he on the level on not?"
|Pack of lies|| A large number of untruthful statements is referred to as a
pack of lies.
"The story about her unhappy childhood turned out to be a pack of lies."
|Pad the bill|| If someone pads the bill, they add false items to a bill or
order to increase the total amount.
"Check the invoice carefully before paying - he tends to pad the bill!"
|Play games (with someone)|| If you are not completely honest, or behave in a way
that is insincere,
evasive or intentionally misleading, you are playing games with
"Look, stop playing games with us. Just tell us if you're interested
in the project or not."
|Play by the rules|| If you play by the rules, you behave in a fair and honest way with people.
"You can trust him, don't worry. He always plays by the rules."
|Pull a fast one|| To pull a fast one means to gain an advantage over someone by
"The street vendor pulled a fast one on Tom. He sold him a big bunch
of roses, but wrapped a smaller bunch while Tom was taking out his
|Rip-off|| To say that something is a rip-off means that it costs much more than
"$10 for a hamburger? That's a rip-off!"
|Scales fall from your eyes|| When the scales fall from your eyes, you finally understand the
"It was only when my neighbour was arrested for theft that the scales fell
from my eyes and I realized where his money came from."
Trying to achieve something by using underhand, deceitful or
dishonourable means that are barely within the law or bordering on
dishonesty is called sharp practice.
"The company is under investigation for sharp practice so it's better to
avoid dealing with them."
|Shoulder surfing|| The practice of looking over somebody's shoulder when they are
using a computer, cash dispenser or other electronic device in order
to obtain personal information (identification, account number,
password, etc.) is called shoulder-surfing.
|Siphon something off||
If someone siphons something off, they transfer something from
one place to another, often illegally.
"It was discovered that he had siphoned off money from the business
into an account in a tax haven."
|A smokescreen|| A smokescreen is an action or tactic intended to conceal or
attention from your real intentions or activities.
"His travel business was just a smokescreen for his political activities."
|Smoking gun|| A smoking gun is a piece of evidence
or the indisputable sign of
"The fingerprints the thief left on the door-handle was the smoking gun
that enabled the police to arrest him."
| Sow the seeds of suspicion
|| If someone's behaviour, or something they say, sows the seeds of
suspicion, it leads others to suspect that they are guilty.
"The fact that the boy spent a lot of money after the burglary sowed
the seeds of suspicion in the neighbours' minds."
|Spin a yarn||
If you spin a yarn, you tell a story, usually a long improbable one, with
"He failed the exam and spun a yarn about the exam papers being stolen."
Someone who has sticky fingers has a tendency to steal.
"Items have been disappearing from the stock recently.
Do any of the employees have sticky fingers?"
|Straight as an arrow|| Someone who is as straight as an arrow is a morally upright
who is extremely honest.
"You can leave the keys with Andy. He's as straight as an arrow."
|Stretch the truth|| When you stretch the truth you exaggerate the facts or say
that are not exactly true.
Some candidates are tempted to stretch the truth about their skills
or work experience.
|Take someone for a ride|| If you are taken for a ride,
you are deceived or cheated by someone.
"When my father was persuaded to invest in the new casino,
he was really taken for a ride. He lost all his money."
|Taken to the cleaners|| If somebody is taken to the
cleaners, they lose a lot of money
in an unfair way, usually by being robbed or cheated.
"When the company Tom had invested in went bankrupt, he
realized he'd been taken to the cleaners."
|A tall story|| A tall story is a statement or story which is difficult to believe
because it sounds unlikely.
"What he said about a stolen invention sounds like a tall story to me."
|Throw dust in somebody's eyes|| If you throw dust in somebody's eyes, you prevent them from
the truth by misleading them.
"He threw dust in the old lady's eyes by pretending to be a police officer,
then stole her jewellery."
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