Could someone please explain the meaning of the word 'lie' in this sentence?

"Webster was a living lie, because no man on earth could be as great as he looked."


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    It's a figurative usage. Just as a statement is a "lie" if what you understand it to mean is in fact "untrue", Smith is saying that Webster is a (metaphorical) lie because he seems to be unbelievably "great" (greater than any man could possibly be), so his appearance must be deceptive. Commented Mar 22, 2021 at 18:14

2 Answers 2


A lie is a statement that isn't true. In this sentence the description ("not true") is applied to the apparent shape of Webster's life. Webster looks great but can't be that great because no man on earth could be.

From https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/live%20a%20lie

Definition of live a lie

: to live in a false or deceptive way : to live in a way that does not show who one truly is or what one's feelings truly are

Their friends thought that they had a happy marriage, but they were living a lie.


It seems to be an exaggeration, a display of affection towards an exceptionally handsome (in Sydney's opinion) man.

A lie is a statement intended to deceive. She felt she was deceived, tricked by his good-looking appearance which she couldn't comprehend - no man on earth could be as great as he looked.

It's closely related to an idiom live a lie

My mother never told my father the truth about me. We've been living a lie all this time.

which usually (but not here) carries a negative connotation.

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