In All Sincerity Definition Essay

This article is about the virtue. For the phrase "Yours sincerely", see Valediction. For the town in West Virginia, see Sincerity, Wetzel County, West Virginia.

"Sincere" redirects here. For the M. J. Cole album, see Sincere (album).

Sincerity is the virtue of one who communicates and acts in accordance with their feelings, beliefs, thoughts, and desires.


The Oxford English Dictionary and most scholars state that sincerity from sincere is derived from the Latin sincerus meaning clean, pure, sound (1525–35). Sincerus may have once meant "one growth" (not mixed), from sin- (one) and crescere (to grow).[1]Crescere is cognate with "Ceres," the goddess of grain, as in "cereal."[2]

According to the American Heritage Dictionary,[3] the Latin word sincerus is derived from the Indo-European root *sm̥kēros, itself derived from the zero-grade of *sem (one) and the suffixed, lengthened e-grade of *ker (grow), generating the underlying meaning of one growth, hence pure, clean.


An often repeated folk etymology proposes that sincere is derived from the Latinsine = without, cera = wax. According to one popular explanation, dishonest sculptors in Rome or Greece would cover flaws in their work with wax to deceive the viewer; therefore, a sculpture "without wax" would mean honesty in its perfection. In its early days the word could refer to the immaterial and material. "One spoke of sincere wine...simply to mean that it had not been adulterated, or, as was once said, sophisticated."[4] Another explanation is that this etymology "is derived from a Greeks-bearing-gifts story of deceit and betrayal. For the feat of victory, the Romans demanded the handing over of obligatory tributes. Following bad advice, the Greeks resorted to some faux-marble statues made of wax, which they offered as tribute. These promptly melted in the warm Greek sun."[5] The Oxford English Dictionary states, however, that "there is no probability in the old explanation from sine cera 'without wax'".

The popularity of the without wax etymology is reflected in its use as a minor subplot in Dan Brown's 1998 thriller novel Digital Fortress, though Brown attributes it to the Spanish language, not Latin. Reference to the same etymology, this time attributed to Latin, later appears in his 2009 novel, The Lost Symbol.

In Western societies[edit]

First discussed by Aristotle in his Nicomachean Ethics, it resurfaced to become an ideal (virtue) in Europe and North America in the 17th century; and it gained considerable momentum during the Romantic movement, when sincerity was first celebrated as an artistic and social ideal. Indeed, in middle to late nineteenth century America, sincerity was an idea reflected in mannerisms, hairstyles, women's dress, and the literature of the time.

More recently sincerity has been under assault by several modern developments such as psychoanalysis and postmodern developments such as deconstruction.[citation needed] Some scholars view sincerity as a construct rather than a moral virtue—although any virtue can be construed as a 'mere construct' rather than an actual phenomenon[citation needed]. Because knowledge of self is necessarily subjective, the philosopher Harry Frankfurt has argued that "sincerity itself is bullshit"[6].

Literary critic Lionel Trilling dealt with the subject of sincerity, its roots, its evolution, its moral quotient, and its relationship to authenticity in a series of lectures published under the title Sincerity and Authenticity.

Aristotle's views[edit]

According to Aristotle "truthfulness or sincerity is a desirable mean state between the deficiency of irony or self-deprecation and the excess of boastfulness."[7][8]

In Confucian societies[edit]

SeeThe Analects

Beyond the Western culture, sincerity is notably developed as a virtue in Confucian societies (China, Korea, and Japan). The concept of chéng (誠、诚) — as expounded in two of the Confucian classics, the Da Xue and the Zhong Yong — is generally translated as sincerity. As in the West, the term implies a congruence of avowal and inner feeling, but inner feeling is in turn ideally responsive to ritual propriety and social hierarchy. Specifically, Confucian's Analects contains the following statement in Chapter I: (主忠信。毋友不如己者。過,則勿憚改。) "Hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles. Then no friends would not be like yourself (all friends would be as loyal as yourself). If you make a mistake, do not be afraid to correct it."

Thus, even today, a powerful leader will praise leaders of other realms as "sincere" to the extent that they know their place in the sense of fulfilling a role in the drama of life. In Japanese the character for cheng may be pronounced makoto, and carries still more strongly the sense of loyal avowal and belief.

See also[edit]

Wikiquote has quotations related to: Sincerity


External links[edit]

Look up sincerity in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
  1. ^
  2. ^Bob Edwards. Origin of the word cereal.National Public Radio (NPR). Show: Morning Edition (11:00 AM on ET) October 21, 1999.
  3. ^
  4. ^Trilling, Lionel (1972). Sincerity and Authenticity. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. pp. 12–13. 
  5. ^Ruth Wajnryb. "If you hear buzzing, get the wax out of your ears"; Words. Sydney Morning Herald (Australia). Spectrum; Books; Pg. 32. November 18, 2006.
  6. ^Frankfurt, Harry G., (2005). On bullshit. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691122946. OCLC 56632137. 
  7. ^, Ethics, Section 4. Last visited, April 25, 2008.
  8. ^Google Books Nicomachean Ethics, Book 4, p. 103, 1127b3-31 by Aristotle

Sincerity is the virtue of anyone who speaks truly about his or her own feelings, thoughts, desires. Sincere expression carries risks to the speaker, since the ordinary screens used in everyday life are opened to the outside world. At the same time, we expect our friends, our lovers, our leaders "to be sincere".


  • When we have intelligence resulting from sincerity, this condition is to be ascribed to nature; when we have sincerity resulting from intelligence, this condition is to be ascribed to instruction. But given the sincerity, and there shall be the intelligence; given the intelligence, and there shall be the sincerity.
    • Confucius, "The Doctrine of the Mean" (ca. 500 BC)
  • 主忠信。毋友不如己者。過,則勿憚改。
    • Hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles. ... If you make a mistake, do not be afraid to correct it.
    • Confucius, The Analects, Chapter I
  • Truth of a modest sort I can promise you, and also sincerity. That complete, praise-worthy sincerity which, while it delivers one into the hands of one's enemies, is as likely as not to embroil one with one's friends.
  • We parry and fend the approach of our fellow-man by compliments, by gossip, by amusements, by affairs. We cover up our thought from him under a hundred folds. I knew a man who under a certain religious frenzy cast off this drapery, and omitting all compliment and commonplace, spoke to the conscience of every person he encountered, and that with great insight and beauty. At first he was resisted, and all men agreed he was mad. But persisting—as indeed he could not help doing—for some time in this course, he attained to the advantage of bringing every man of his acquaintance into true relations with him. No man would think of speaking falsely with him, or of putting him off with any chat of markets or reading-rooms. But every man was constrained by so much sincerity to the like plain dealing, and what love of nature, what poetry, what symbol of truth he had, he did certainly show him. But to most of us society shows not its face and eye, but its side and its back. To stand in true relations with men in a false age is worth a fit of insanity, is it not?
    • Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Friendship,” Essays: First Series, Complete Works (1883), vol. 2, pp. 194-195
  • Good manners without sincerity are like a beautiful dead lady.
  • Frank sincerity is a quality much extolled among men and pleasing to every one, while simulation, on the contrary, is detested and condemned. Yet for a man's self, simulation is of the two by far the more useful; sincerity tending rather to the interest of others. But since it cannot be denied that it is not a fine thing to deceive, I would commend him whose conduct is as a rule open and straightforward, and who uses simulation only in matters of the gravest importance and such as very seldom occur; for in this way he will gain a name for honesty and sincerity, and with it the advantages attaching to these qualities. At the same time, when, in any extreme emergency, he resorts to simulation, he will draw all the greater advantage from it, because from his reputation for plain dealing his artifice will blind men more.
  • Over the years they had developed a layer of sincerity over the irony over the sincerity. It was an irony sandwich, then, which tasted mostly like sincerity, like a cheap, bad sandwich.
  • The temper I am of requires me to keep away from court. Heaven, when it sent me into the world, did not give me a soul suited to the air of courts. I do not find in myself the virtues necessary to succeed, and make my fortune there. My chief talent is to be frank and sincere.
  • How can a man know himself? He is a thing dark and veiled; and if the hare has seven skins, man can slough off seventy times seven and still not be able to say: “this is really you, this is no longer outer shell.”
    • Friedrich Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations, “Schopenhauer as educator,” § 3.1, R. Hollingdale, trans. (1983), p. 129
  • You seem to be going in for sincerity today. It isn't becoming to you, really — except as an obvious pose. Be as artificial as you are, I advise. There's a sort of sincerity in that, you know. And, after all, you must confess you like that better.
  • One who is serious all day will never have a good time, while one who is frivolous all day will never establish a household.
  • Sentir mon Cœur is a privilege only granted to the exceptional man—the one who has the ability to find words that exactly (or, to himself, convincingly) express his feelings. ... The value of words help to define the feeling itself. ... The common failure is to allow habitual words and phrases, flowing spontaneously from the memory, to determine and deform the feelings.
  • Men should be what they seem;
    Or those that be not, would they might seem none!
  • A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations[edit]

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 712.
  • Of all the evil spirits abroad at this hour in the world, insincerity is the most dangerous.
  • Sincerity is impossible, unless it pervade the whole being, and the pretence of it saps the very foundation of character.
  • There is no greater delight than to be conscious of sincerity on self-examination.
    • Mencius, Works, Book VII, Chapter IV

Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)[edit]

Quotes reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).
  • Sincerity and truth form the basis of every virtue.
    Be what thou seemest; live thy creed;
    Hold up to earth the torch divine;
    Be what thou prayest to be made;
    Let the great Master's steps be thine.
  • Let every man examine his own sincerity, for every man must bear his own burden — the burden of his own sin —unless he has transferred it to the appointed Saviour.
  • Try how much of the word of God you can understand, and what is more, try how much you can practice. A sincere wish and purpose to do the will of God, will be your best way to know the mind of God.
  • True emotions and sincere words never perish. The great heart of humanity gladly receives and embalms every true utterance of the humblest of its offspring.
  • Judge thyself with the judgment of sincerity, and thou wilt judge others with the judgment of charity.
  • I cannot find in Scripture that any one ever got to heaven merely by sincerity, or was accepted with God if he was only earnest in maintaining his own views. Sincerity cannot put away sin.
  • The surest, as the shortest way, to make yourself beloved and honored, is to be, indeed, the very man you wish to appear.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

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