If you act in good faith, you act in a way that you believe to be honest, but could it also mean that you act in a way that you intend to be honest and fair? Put another way, could e.g., She acted in good faith be interpreted not only as 'She believed that what she did was the right thing to do', but also as 'She acted in a decent and fair way'? I have consulted Cambridge dictionary, Merriam-Webster and a bilingual dictionary – according to Merriam-Webster in good faith means "in an honest and proper way", which would seem to indicate that both readings are correct, but I'm not entirely sure...

Edit: Ok, I see that my use of intend is confusing the matter. What I'm wondering is whether in good faith can be used to describe someone's behaviour as such, not only the belief that such behaviour is based on (if that makes things any clearer...). So that She acted in good faith could mean either that her actions were based on her belief that what she did was the right thing to do, or that her actions as such were carried out in an honest and decent way.

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    compare: to something in bad faith. intention is a separate issue. "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." :)
    – Lambie
    Feb 4 at 19:17
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    If I accept a contract or legal document in good faith, I believe it to be genuine; there is not really any 'intention'. Feb 4 at 20:30
  • @MichaelHarvey Yes, I know that sense of the expression; what I'm wondering is whether it can also have the other sense described in my OP. I have added an edit now; I don't know whether that makes it any clearer though...
    – Helen
    Feb 4 at 21:35

2 Answers 2


"In good faith" means both: you believe and intend to be honest, fair, etc.

The phrase is usually used when there is a chance that what you are doing will not work out, or in the past tense when it did not work out.

Like, "He sold the car in good faith, believing that it was in good running condition. He was not aware of the serious maintenance problems." Or, "We will make a good faith effort to deliver your package on time. However, we cannot guarantee that we will deliver it by Tuesday, as there may be circumstances beyond our control."

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    No, that is not right at all. "I did x in good faith". does not reveal intention per se. If it did, you would not be able to say: I intend to do this in good faith.
    – Lambie
    Feb 4 at 19:50
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    @Lambie I've added an edit to my OP now; I see that my use of "intend" only confused the matter... I didn't mean that intention is part of the meaning of "in good faith" as such; I only brought it up to bring out the contrast with belief... Oh, this is hard to explain...
    – Helen
    Feb 4 at 21:38
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    @WeatherVane Are you saying that you couldn't say "I intend to do this in good faith", or... Hm... not sure I understand what you mean...
    – Helen
    Feb 4 at 21:50
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    @Helen I guess that could be its usage in other cultures. I am used to it being used to describe my reaction to other people's actions, not as a way of saying "yea, I am honest and trustworthy." Feb 4 at 22:09
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    @Helen If someone says, "What I say is true", versus, "I believe that what I say is true", the difference is a matter of degree. The first implies certainly, the second admits some doubt. When someone says, "I am acting in good faith", it implies a certain amount of uncertainty. The person claims that what he is doing is, TO THE BEST OF HIS KNOWLEDGE AND ABILITY, honest and true. But the phrase implies there is some doubt.
    – Jay
    Feb 4 at 22:25

In general "in good faith" is used to convey an absence of malice and an absence of a deliberate act of deception. The expression isn't particularly precise beyond that.

Saying She acted in good faith means

  • She did not intend to harm anyone with her actions and did not believe that anyone would be harmed by those actions.


  • She did not intend to deceive anyone through her actions and did not believe that anyone would be deceived through her actions.
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    Sometimes the act of good faith can involve innocent belief by the actor, and belief by that actor in the honest intention of another. An example might be when an innocent buyer (a 'purchaser in good faith') purchases property and it turns out that it had been stolen. Feb 5 at 11:36

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