We looked at some informal words for types of lies. This time, we will start with a more formal word that is used in similar contexts.
A statement that is not true can be described as a ‘fallacy.’ However, this word is never used for intentional lies. If you yourself know that what you are saying is untrue, then it is simply a lie or a fib.
But if you believe in the truth of what you are saying, but others know it to be untrue, it can be described as a fallacy. But ‘fallacy’ is not a straightforward substitute for lie. A mistake in reasoning or a wrong conclusion drawn from some evidence can be described as a fallacy.
For example, you could say it is a fallacy that technological innovation is solving the problems of food scarcity. While we do grow more food today thanks to better fertilizers and potent pesticides, in the long run the chemicals make the farms unsustainable.
Or here is another example: people often say that the environmental damage we are causing will destroy the planet. But that is a fallacy–the truth is that the changes could make our existence and that of many other species impossible, but even after the human race has disappeared, other forms of life will be able to survive.
A fallacy is thus a misconception, a belief or an opinion that can be proven wrong with some evidence.
A rumored belief or opinion that is wrong can also be described as a myth. A fallacy is something that can be traced to its origin–a person or a book, or a similar specific source.
A myth on the other hand is a wrong belief held by people in general. ‘Myth’ originally refers to ancient stories popular in a culture, but the word is also used to refer to untrue stories or facts that are believed to be true.
You can say for example, ‘it’s a myth that physical punishment is essential for teaching children discipline and obedience.’ If a ‘fib’ is a lie that you tell on your own, a myth is a lie you hear from others, a lie that you might encounter when reading.
Another formal word that is related to the concept of truth and lying is ‘equivocation.’ When you avoid telling the truth, and in general evade giving clear answers, you are equivocating. For example, you can say, ‘when faced with tough questions about the corruption charges, the Minister resorted to equivocation, and refused clear answers.
Since all our art, all our stories are made possible by our ability to construct elaborate lies, I think it is no surprise that we have so many shades of lying and different words for them all.