Honest (adjective) "truthful, upright"

22nd April 2005 at 01:00
When "honest" came into the language from French, in the 14th century, it had the general meaning of "held in honour, honourable, respectable". A century later it had developed its modern sense, often to be found in Shakespeare. But the older meanings were still around. The meaning of "honourable" can be heard when Hamlet describes himself to Ophelia as "indifferent honest" (Hamlet, III.i.122) or Antony describes Brutus as "noble, wise, valiant, and honest" (Julius Caesar, III.i.126).

The word means "genuine, real" when Hamlet describes what he has seen as "an honest ghost" (Hamlet, I.v.138). And it means "innocent, well-intentioned" when Hero talks about devising "some honest slanders To stain my cousin with" (Much Ado About Nothing, III.i.84). But the most important difference from modern English is the sense of "chaste, pure".

When Touchstone says to Audrey, "thou swearest to me thou art honest" (As You Like It, III.iii.23), or Othello says to Iago, "I think my wife be honest" (Othello, III.iii.381), they are not enquiring into their women's truthfulness, but their morals.

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number

Comments

The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now