Entries linking to untruth
prefix of negation, Old English un-, from Proto-Germanic *un- (source also of Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Old High German, German un-, Gothic un-, Dutch on-), from PIE *n- (source of Sanskrit a-, an- "not," Greek a-, an-, Old Irish an-, Latin in-), combining form of PIE root *ne- "not." Often euphemistic (such as untruth for "lie").
The most prolific of English prefixes, freely and widely used in Old English, where it forms more than 1,000 compounds. It underwent a mass extinction in early Middle English, but emerged with renewed vigor 16c. to form compounds with native and imported words. It disputes with Latin-derived cognate in- (1) the right to form the negation of certain words (indigestable/undigestable, etc.), and though both might be deployed in cooperation to indicate shades of meaning (unfamous/infamous), typically they are not.
It also makes words from phrases (such as uncalled-for, c. 1600; undreamed-of, 1630s; uncome-at-able, 1690s; unputdownable, 1947, of a book; un-in-one-breath-utterable, Ben Jonson; etc., but the habit is not restricted to un-; such as put-up-able-with, 1812). As a prefix in telegramese to replace not and save the cost of a word, it is attested by 1936.
Old English triewð (West Saxon), treowð (Mercian) "faith, faithfulness, fidelity, loyalty; veracity, quality of being true; pledge, covenant," from Germanic abstract noun *treuwitho, from Proto-Germanic treuwaz "having or characterized by good faith," from PIE *drew-o-, a suffixed form of the root *deru- "be firm, solid, steadfast." With Germanic abstract noun suffix *-itho (see -th (2)).
Sense of "something that is true" is first recorded mid-14c. Meaning "accuracy, correctness" is from 1560s. English and most other IE languages do not have a primary verb for "speak the truth," as a contrast to lie (v.). Truth squad in U.S. political sense first attested in the 1952 U.S. presidential election campaign.
At midweek the Republican campaign was bolstered by an innovation—the "truth squad" ..., a team of senators who trailed whistle-stopping Harry Truman to field what they denounced as his wild pitches. [Life magazine, Oct. 13, 1952]
Let [Truth] and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter. [Milton, "Areopagitica," 1644]
updated on April 07, 2014