a white lie

(little) white lie

A lie thought to be insignificant and justified, especially one told to avoid hurting someone's feelings or giving offense. I try to be honest most of the time, but I do tell white lies when I'm worried about upsetting people. A: "Do you actually like her new haircut?" B: "Of course not, but I couldn't tell her that, so I told a little white lie instead." Sarah's the new whiz kid in accounting. She'll help you tackle the budget in no time.
See also: lie, white

a white lie

If you tell a white lie, you say something which is untrue, often in order to protect someone or to avoid upsetting someone. I said she looked nice, thinking it kinder to tell a white lie. I believe that this is a case where a little white lie is really more appropriate than the truth.
See also: lie, white
References in classic literature ?
She thought she had a good deal of the coquette in her, and I 've no doubt that with time and training she would have become a very dangerous little person, but now she was far too transparent and straightforward by nature even to tell a white lie cleverly.