Hearsay Meaning: What Does Hearsay Mean?

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you heard something from someone else, but you’re not sure if it’s true or not? Perhaps it was a rumor, gossip, or just plain hearsay. The power of hearsay can be both fascinating and dangerous, as it has the ability to shape our beliefs and perceptions without any concrete evidence.

In today’s world, where information travels faster than ever before, understanding the meaning and impact of hearsay is more important than ever. So, what exactly is hearsay, and why does it matter? Let’s explore this intriguing concept together.

Hearsay Meaning

What Does Hearsay Mean?

In our understanding, hearsay generally refers to information that one hasn’t directly witnessed but has learned from another source. It typically can’t be substantiated by one’s own experience. Here’s the key about hearsay:

In legal contexts, hearsay is any out-of-court statement that is used to prove the truth of the matter asserted. This type of evidence is usually not admissible in court because it can’t be cross-examined, causing credibility and reliability issues. For instance:

Source of Information Directly Witnessed Hearsay
Eyewitness Account Yes No
Third-party Rumor No Yes

Hearsay Meaning

Origins of Hearsay

The concept of hearsay can be traced back to ancient times, where people relied on word-of-mouth communication to spread information. In a legal context, the prohibition of hearsay evidence dates back centuries as a common law principle designed to protect the integrity of the judicial process. The primary concern with hearsay in court proceedings is the lack of opportunity for cross-examination, which might lead to inaccuracies or falsehoods being presented as evidence.

Other Meanings of Hearsay

Aside from the law, hearsay also has broader meanings. Here are a couple:

  • In everyday use, hearsay often just means rumor or unverified information. This is the kind of stuff we might overhear or have told to us by friends.Take a look:
    Setting Hearsay Example
    Social “I heard from Joe that the café downtown is closing.”
    Professional “There’s talk that the company is merging.”

Commonly Confused Terms with Hearsay

In our discussion of hearsay, we often encounter terms that seem similar but hold distinct meanings in both legal and everyday contexts. Let’s clarify some of these terms and draw clear distinctions to better understand hearsay.

Hearsay Vs. Heresy

Heresy refers to a belief or opinion that deviates from established religious doctrine, especially in the context of Christianity. It is not related to evidence and has no legal standing in court. Hearsay, conversely, is about the admissibility of statements made outside of a current legal proceeding.

Hearsay Vs. Speculation

Speculation involves forming a theory or conjecture without firm evidence. It is often based on a personal supposition or hypotheticals rather than tangible proof. Unlike speculation, hearsay involves actual statements made by a person not present in court, which may contain elements of truth or falsehood but aren’t accepted as evidence due to the inability to cross-examine the source.

Hearsay Vs. Rumor

rumor is typically an unverified piece of information that is spread informally, usually by word of mouth. While a rumor can be based on hearsay, it is not necessarily intended to serve as evidence in a legal context. In contrast, hearsay is specifically concerned with the use of out-of-court statements as evidence within legal proceedings.

Hearsay Vs. Testimony

Testimony is a formal statement given under oath in a legal setting by a witness who is present in court. The witness can be cross-examined on this statement, ensuring its reliability. Hearsay, on the other hand, lacks this verification process since the declarant isn’t available to testify and undergo questioning by both parties involved in the legal case.

Hearsay Examples

In our daily lives, we frequently encounter hearsay without always realizing it. It’s important for us to recognize these examples to better understand how hearsay can influence conversations and the information we share.

Examples of Hearsay in Conversations

Example Conversation 1: In the Office

  • Monica: “Did you hear about the manager’s meeting? I heard from Sarah that they’re planning to restructure the entire department.”
  • Raj: “Well, I wouldn’t put too much stock in that. Unless it comes straight from the manager, it’s just hearsay. We should wait for the official announcement.”

Example Conversation 2: At a Trial

  • Defense Attorney: “Your Honor, I object to the witness’s last statement.”
  • Judge: “On what grounds?”
  • Defense Attorney: “It’s hearsay. The witness is testifying about what someone else said outside of court, and that person isn’t here to verify the statement.”
  • Judge: “Objection sustained. The jury will disregard the last statement.”

Examples of Hearsay in Texting and Social Posts


Text between friends:

  • A: “Hey, I heard from Jess that Mark got the promotion. ????”
  • B: “Really? Unless Mark tells us himself, it’s just hearsay. Let’s not spread it further. ????”

Text in a family group chat:

  • Mom: “Your cousin told me you’re moving to Canada! Is it true?”
  • You: “Lol, no, that’s just hearsay, Mom. I’m staying put for now. ????”

Social Posts:

Facebook post:

  • “I’ve seen posts saying the park is closing for renovations next month, but haven’t found any official notice. Sounds like hearsay at this point. Has anyone seen an official announcement? ????????”


  • “Rumors are flying that the new phone model will be delayed. But remember, without confirmation from the company, it’s all hearsay. #TechRumors #WaitForIt ????”

Other Examples of Hearsay

Hearsay isn’t limited to just spoken words; it can be found in written form too, like a note passed in class alleging something about a fellow student, or an anonymous tip written on a community bulletin board. Whenever we repeat information that we don’t know firsthand, we’re spreading hearsay.

Usage of Hearsay in Different Contexts

When we talk about hearsay, it’s essential to understand that the term can take on different meanings depending on the setting. In legal terms, hearsay generally refers to out-of-court statements made by a person who is not testifying at a trial, offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted. However, the application of this concept varies across legal situations and jurisdictions.

  • In Courtrooms: The classic definition takes shape here. Hearsay is often inadmissible as evidence under the hearsay rule, lest the statement was made under oath and during the current proceedings. There are exceptions to this rule, such as when a statement is considered a spontaneous declaration or an admission by a party-opponent.
  • Everyday Conversation: Hearsay encompasses rumours or information we’ve heard from someone else. It’s not verified first-hand, which means it’s often a blend of truth and untruth.
  • Journalistic Reporting: Here, journalists strive to avoid hearsay and seek direct sources for information. Reliance on unverified second-hand information could compromise the reliability of the news.
  • Scholarly Work: Academics and researchers seek to use primary sources over hearsay, although secondary sources are used to supplement argumentation.

More About Hearsay Terminology

In this section, we’ll explore the language surrounding hearsay, including related legal terms and synonyms that are often used interchangeably. Understanding this terminology helps us grasp the nuances of hearsay in both legal and casual contexts.

Related Terms to Hearsay

  • Out-of-Court Statement: A statement made outside of the current legal proceeding.
  • Admissibility: Pertains to whether the hearsay can be accepted by a court as evidence.
  • Credibility: A key factor that is often questioned in hearsay since the original speaker is not present to verify the statement.

Synonyms to Hearsay

  • Rumor: Informal information that may or may not be true, often based on unsubstantiated hearsay.
  • Gossip: Similar to rumor; details or claims that are often not verified and are spread by word of mouth.
  • Scuttlebutt: Informal nautical term that refers to rumor or gossip among sailors, easily replaceable with hearsay in conversation.
  • Tattle: To reveal information or activities of others, typically considered to be of a gossiping nature but can be based on hearsay.

Antonyms for Hearsay

  • Evidence: Information or signs indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid; often used in legal contexts to refer to proof presented.
  • Fact: Something that is known or proven to be true.
  • Confirmation: The action of confirming something or the state of being confirmed; often refers to information that has been verified.
  • Documentation: Material that provides official information or evidence or that serves as a record.
  • Proof: Evidence or argument establishing a fact or the truth of a statement.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an example of hearsay?

Hearsay can be a statement made by someone outside of the court that is being used as evidence in a trial. For example, if someone says, “His sister told me that he has guns under his bed,” this would be considered hearsay since it is a statement made by the sister outside of court and is being used to prove that there are guns under the bed.

What is considered hearsay?

Hearsay is generally defined as an out-of-court statement made by a declarant, which is being used to prove the truth of the matter asserted in the statement. This can include spoken or written statements, as well as gestures and other nonverbal communication.

How can hearsay be used in a sentence?

Using hearsay in a sentence typically involves quoting or relaying an out-of-court statement that may be considered hearsay in a legal context. For example: “During the trial, the witness testified that she had heard the defendant say he was planning to commit the crime, which was challenged as hearsay by the defense.”

In what situations is hearsay evidence admissible?

There are exceptions to the general rule that hearsay is inadmissible. Some examples include when a statement is an “excited utterance,” made in the heat of the moment or as a result of surprise or shock, or when the statement is being used to prove the state of mind of the person who heard it. Additionally, hearsay may be admissible if the declarant (the person who made the statement) is unavailable to testify, such as when the declarant has died.

What does objection hearsay imply?

An objection to hearsay in a trial implies that one party believes that the opposing party’s evidence contains a statement that meets the definition of hearsay and should be excluded based on its unreliable nature. When an attorney objects to hearsay, they are requesting that the judge exclude the statement from the trial proceedings.

How can one determine if a statement is hearsay?

To determine if a statement is hearsay, one should consider whether the statement was made outside of the court, by someone other than the person testifying, and whether it is being used to prove the truth of the matter asserted in the statement. If all three of these factors are present, the statement is likely hearsay, and it will be up to the court to decide if any exceptions apply.