I encountered this thread on Twitter by Will Amos.

I made a really unfortunate mistake today & obviously I’m embarrassed by it. My camera was accidentally left on as I changed into work clothes after going for a jog. I sincerely apologize to all my colleagues in the House. It was an honest mistake + it won’t happen again.

I cannot comprehend what the honest in honest mistake implies. I googled it and can find this definition:

A mistake made unintentionally or unknowingly and without the intention of causing harm; a mistake that anyone might have made in similar circumstances.

But I don't know how honest relates to either unintentional or anyone might. Could anyone please help explain what the honest implies?

I wonder if it means that Will Amos honestly admitted and apologized for the mistake?

  • Sometimes people who do something wrong deliberately say afterwards to a police officer, judge, or lawyer that it was a 'mistake'. Often this is not believed, and people may say that something was a 'genuine' or 'honest' mistake if they wish to emphasise that they are telling the truth. Apr 17, 2021 at 12:35

1 Answer 1


An honest mistake is a true or a genuine mistake. There's no such thing as a "dishonest" mistake—something is either an accident or it isn't. Rather, the term "honest mistake" is meant to contrast with an accidentally-on-purpose mistake.

For example:

  • Two coworkers don't get along. One of them accidentally takes a drink that the other had left in the fridge. It could be that they took the drink on purpose to be mean, but that's not the case, they really thought it was their own drink—it was an honest mistake.
  • A politician strips down while changing and is caught on camera. It might be that he is an exhibitionist and deliberately changed on camera for the thrill of it. But that's not the case, he really didn't realize the camera was on—it was an honest mistake.

The phrase honest mistake has become a phrase in its own right, but the underlying meaning of honest here is definition 2 at wiktionary:

(of a statement) True, especially as far as is known by the person making the statement; fair; unbiased.

i.e. it is a real mistake, definitely not something done on purpose.

  • Worth clarifying that a 'dishonest mistake' is not a mistake at all. Apr 17, 2021 at 7:26

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