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In Latin there are words which look & sound English-y; but, do not mean the English things which they resemble e.g. Latin word, "infestus", does not mean English, "infested"; but, "hostile". There is a possible linkage: a body which is doing the infesting may well be hostile. Still, the meanings are not synonymous. Similarly, Latin word, "insecto", does not mean English, "insect"; but, is a verb: "to pursue with hostile intent". Again, there is a linkage: picture a squadron of angry wasps pursuing clumsy character who has disturbed their nest.

And, Latin word, "honestus", does it mean honest? In Q: https://latin.stackexchange.com/a/18854/1982, Tyler Durden made this translation:

"quem vitae honestas, et fidei decor," =

"Whom honesty of life and propriety of loyalty,"

The sources: Oxford, Wiki, L&S: none of these state, "honest"; but "honourable", "noble", "of high rank", and other laudable things. It may well be that people possessing these qualities are honest; but, these are not synonymous terms, are they?

Interesting, in the English-Latin section of Oxford, "honest" is given as, "probus"; "sincerus"; "integer"; but, not, "honestus".

Any thoughts?

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    Please note that English insect comes straight from Latin (animal) insectum, from insecare (to cut in, quia corpora horum animalium insecta videntur). It is completely unrelated to insector. Commented Mar 14, 2023 at 14:20
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    Note also that in vitae honestas, the honestas is not a form of honestus, but a third-declension noun honestas, -tatis, f. Commented Mar 14, 2023 at 14:21
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    Serious question: if you don't trust the standard dictionaries why would you trust us?
    – Cairnarvon
    Commented Mar 15, 2023 at 20:37
  • I think Tyler's translation is accurate enough. You could argue that "honorability of life" would be more accurate, but it does not sound idiomatic to me.
    – Figulus
    Commented Mar 17, 2023 at 20:47
  • @Sebastian Koppehel: Thanks for clearing these things up. The Q. was predicated on the (potential) confusion for (native) English-speakers generated by English-sounding words, hence the inclusion of, "insecto". I wondered why TD had used a feminine, accusative plural (honestas). It was almost my next Q!
    – tony
    Commented Mar 18, 2023 at 9:19

1 Answer 1

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There is probably not much to add to the dictionaries. Honestus does not mean “free of fraud, lies or deception,” so if that's what you think of when you hear the English word honest, well, that's not it. It does indeed mean something like “honourable,” and arguably dishonesty is also dishonourable, so a vir honestus can certainly be expected to keep to the truth, but that is just one aspect of his virtues, and the Latin word does not single it out.

Note that besides the excellence of someone's character, honestus can also refer to the honours bestowed on him, or the high esteem in which he is held.

Note also that the English word honest also has a broader meaning than just “truthful.” According to Merriam-Webster, it also means “reputable, respectable,” and also “good, worthy.” In this sense it can be translated as honestus.

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    Yep, an "honest living" is a respectable living, not one free of lies, although the two ideas are related.
    – cmw
    Commented Mar 14, 2023 at 15:20
  • @Sebastian Koppehel: If we wish to say that someone tells the truth we state it: "He tells the truth/ doesn't tell lies,"; similarly, with the others, "He is respectable,", not, "He is honest," in the forlorn hope that this whole string of adjectives will be understood. Use of "honest": this person won't steal your possessions; will keep promises/ deals; will honour contractual obligations, even when it may be inconvenient to do so ("He has integriity," would be far better for these; "honourable" = Latin, "honestus".
    – tony
    Commented Mar 16, 2023 at 10:19
  • @Sebastian Koppehel: Consider: criminals have codes of honour: silence, loyalty; but, they are not honest. It is possible to be honourable without being honest. Is this why Latin, "honestus" does not mean "honest"?
    – tony
    Commented Mar 16, 2023 at 10:24

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