- A liar is a person who doesn’t speak the truth.
- A lier is a person or object that rests in a horizontal position.
Liar and lier are both derived from the verb to lie. The problem is that lie has two very different meanings. The difference between liar and lier is equivalent to the difference between the two meanings of the verb lie: to tell lies and to rest in a horizontal position.
The meaning of the word liar
Liar is an agent noun, a noun that denotes someone or something that performs an action described by the verb from which the noun is derived. The verb in question is lie, meaning “to say something that’s not true.” So, a liar is a person who lies—a person who says something they know is not true.
The meaning of the word lier
If you encounter the word lier somewhere, it’s likely to be a misspelling of the word liar. It’s apparently quite common for people ask themselves “is it spelled lier or liar?” and choose the wrong answer. But lier is a real word—it’s just rarely used. It’s also an agent noun, just like liar, but it comes from the other meaning of the verb lie—to rest in a horizontal position. Remember, that’s lie, not lay. A lier is something or someone that is lying prostrate.