Matt Damon says he didn't need to retire the homophobic f-word after all ... because he says he never used it in the first place.
The actor just tried to dig out from under an interview, where he was quoted as saying he only recently stopped using the f-word after his own daughter checked him hard.
Matt attempted to clear the air Monday, saying the quote from his interview with The Sunday Times was him recalling a discussion he had with his daughter where he tried explaining lots of progress has been made since he was a young kid growing up in Boston and hearing the f-slur used on the street before he knew what it meant.
MD told Variety ... "I have never called anyone 'f****t' in my personal life and this conversation with my daughter was not a personal awakening. I do not use slurs of any kind."
As we reported ... The Sunday Times reported Matt said in an interview his daughter called him out when he used the f-word in a joke -- she explained how the word is dangerous and he told her, 'I retire the f-slur!'
Now, Matt says he told his daughter the slur was uttered "constantly and casually" when he was younger and pointed out it was even used as a joke in his 2003 movie, "Stuck On You" ... adding she was incredulous the word was used so flippantly. He seems to be saying even though he heard it a lot growing up, he never used it himself.
Matt told Variety he stands with the LGBTQ+ community and says he understands why his quote led folks to assume the worst ... "I have learned that eradicating prejudice requires active movement toward justice rather than finding passive comfort in imagining myself 'one of the good guys.'"