Welcome to the Honor Dictionary Website!

Here you will find a description of the Honor Dictionary and how to use it. This dictionary is designed to diagnose “honor talk” in any text that you are interested in analyzing. Details regarding the development and validation of the dictionary can be found in this paper:

Gelfand, M. J., Severance, L., Lee, T., Bruss, C. B., Lun, J., Abdel‐Latif, A. H., ... & Moustafa Ahmed, S. (2015). Culture and getting to yes: The linguistic signature of creative agreements in the United States and Egypt. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 36(7), 967-989.

The dictionary is free to use and is currently available in English. It will be available in Arabic and Farsi in the Summer of 2017.

We ask that when discussing the dictionary in your own work that you cite the above publication. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions: mjgelfand@gmail.com

Honor Talk: A Multidimensional Construct

As we discuss in Gelfand et al., (2015), honor is a critical construct across cultures and history. It has been conceptualized as a key commodity that signifies a person’s self-worth in society; it is “the value of a person in his own eyes, but also in the eyes of his society. It is his estimation of his own worth, his claim to pride, but it is also the acknowledgment of that claim” (Pitt-Rivers, 1965, p. 21). It is of critical importance in any culture, and particularly the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America. In these cultures, honor is to a person what air is to breathing. Without honor, a person cannot survive (Baroja, 1966; Hurst, 1990). The importance of honor is instantiated in many proverbs, including “Dignity before bread” (الكرامة قبل الخبز) and “I’d rather you respect me than feed me” (الأفضل لي أن تحترمني على أن تطعمني). Given its importance, people are often willing to fight rather than give up their honor (Atran & Axelrod, 2008). Honor cultures are not random—they are particularly likely to evolve in contexts where there are scarce resources and weak institutions (Nowak et al., 2015).

Our research shows that honor is a multidimensional construct involving distinct processes, including:

Honor gain: gaining self-worth through virtuous behavior as well as achievements and status markers

Honor prevention: protecting one's image and preventing damages to reputation, including being vigilant against honor threats and projecting images of strength

Honor loss: stealing or giving away of honor through wrongdoing, harm, and aggression

The Honor Dictionary allows you to discern how much honor talk is found in any text, whether it is a speech, newspaper, blog, twitter, facebook, etc., and which type of honor talk is dominating the text (e.g., honor gain, honor prevention, honor loss).

The Honor Dictionary was developed based on hundreds of in-depth interviews across seven countries: Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan, Turkey, and the US. In each country, interviews were conducted among people who varied in age, gender, socio-economic status, and living experiences. These interviews were comprised of many questions such as: “What does honor [sharaf] mean to you?” “How does one demonstrate or prove one’s honor in everyday contexts?” and “What happens when one’s honor is insulted or threatened?” among others.

The Honor Dictionary was validated in a number of studies which can be seen here (Appendix A). We showed, for example, that there is more honor talk in U.S. Southern newspapers than Northern newspapers both during the Civil War and modern times, which is in line with the characterization of the South as an honor culture (Nisbett & Cohen, 1996). Through analyzing the texts of country’s constitutions, the Honor Dictionary was able to also differentiate countries around the world in expected ways, showing that countries in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Mediterranean are more honor oriented than Northern and Western European countries and countries of European descent. The Honor Dictionary also differentiated honor talk among Israelis and Palestinians discussing the same issues on the Bitter Lemons forum. In other work, we have shown that honor talk spikes after events like the 2012 Afghanistan Quran burning and 9/11. Honor talk (particularly honor gain and prevention) is also critical for high quality negotiation agreements in the Middle East (Gelfand et al., 2015).

This outline provides an overview of the superordinate and subordinate categories of the dictionary, and this poster details the specific words in each category.

If you would like to download and use the dictionary, simply follow the link below. To use the dictionary to analyze speech or text, simply load our dictionary into the Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC) software using the steps that are outlined in their research manual. This manual also explains the way that LIWC operates (by sampling the frequencies of pre-specified words) and how to analyze LIWC output. The software itself is available for a small fee through the LIWC website.

Download the Honor Dictionary Here!

NOTE: We fixed some bugs in the dictionary! Please re-download it if you downloaded it prior to April 1, 2017.

If you are using a Mac: You may need to temporarily change your security settings to allow downloads from unidentified developers. To do this, go to System Preferences > Security & Privacy. You will see an option to "allow apps downloaded from anywhere." This will let you download the dictionary, and then you can switch your settings back.

If you are using a PC: You may need to download software that can read a .dic file. Various applications with this function are available for free download online.


Feel free to contact me with the provided information. I will do my best to reply in a timely manner.

  • 3147C Biology/Psychology Building, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742
  • 301 405 6972
  • mgelfand@umd.edu