English Idioms About Secrets

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  • Post last modified:12/12/2021
  • Post category:English Idioms
  • Reading time:11 mins read

Learn English idioms about secrets and gossip with detailed meanings and examples. Start using them in your English conversations and sound much more like a native speaker.

Listen to the podcast Speak Better English with Harry or watch it on YouTube at Learn English with Harry.

Speak better English with Harry - Episode 347

Secrets and Gossip idioms

English idioms about secrets

English idioms about secrets and gossip. What is the best way to learn English vocabulary? Advanced English course at www.englishlessonviaskype.com #learnenglish #englishlessons #EnglishTeacher #vocabulary #ingles

Hi there, this is Harry and welcome to my podcast where I try to help you to get a better understanding of the English language. If you want to have better conversations when you travel abroad, or with your friends and colleagues. I help you with the grammar, pronunciation, phrasal verbs, expressions, everything connected with English.

What are we going to talk about today? Well, in this particular lesson, we’re going to look at something really interesting because everybody likes to talk about this. Everybody likes secrets, and everybody likes a little bit of gossip.

So we’re going to look at English idioms about secrets and gossip.

People like secrets, they like to share them with someone, even though they are secret, they feel they have to share them.

Gossip is something we have in the office, in the bar, in the football club, or tennis club.

We’re going to go through them. Hopefully, I’ll be able to give you an explanation, an example. And then you’ll be able to practise.

Intermediate to Advanced English Marathon

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

INSANITY: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

The first one

my lips are sealed 

Meaning: use it when you want to promise someone not to tell their secret

Of course, when our lips are sealed, it’s tight shut. So if you put some glue between your lips, so you’re not able to speak.

You can tell me but my lips are sealed, I won’t tell a soul, I promise.

And of course, as soon as you find out the information, you run home and you tell your wife or your partner, and you’ve broken the promise already.

to dish the dirt

Meaning: reveal or spread some details, usually unpleasant and negative information

When we talk about dishing, for example, when we are serving a meal, the food in which we serve can be a dish. When when we actually serve the food or take it out of the pan and put it on individual plates, this is what we call ‘to dish’ or to serve.

🧒 I’ve just met with John and he had really lots of interesting things to tell me about what’s happening in the office.

👱🏻 Oh, come on, dish the dirt. We’re all ears.

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to keep something under your hat

Meaning: keep something a secret

Of course, when you put something under your hat, literally, it means nobody can see it. It’s hidden from view. In the old old days of the 1950s and 60s and even 70s people used to wear hats on quite a regular basis. They would have been part of their day to day attire. Today, people don’t really wear hats anymore, but we still use this expression.

I want to tell you something, but it’s really, really important. If anybody hears about it, I get into trouble. You have to keep it under your hat.

to sweep something under the carpet/rug

Meaning: to try to hide some problem hoping that nobody will notice and it will disappear

When we use this expression, we want to forget about something. Or we know it’s a problem, but we’re not going to deal with it.

The expression comes from the fact that when people are hoovering or vacuuming their homes, they rarely pick up a rug or carpet and sweep under it. There’s always a lot of dirt hidden under the carpet. And you’d be surprised when you lifted it how much dust and dirt is there. So when we sweep something under the carpet, we put it there out of view, and nobody will see it.

The conflict came to the attention of their line manager, but he chose to sweep it under the carpet and forgot about it.

English idioms about secrets

English idioms about secrets and gossip. What is the best way to learn English vocabulary? Advanced English course at www.englishlessonviaskype.com #learnenglish #englishlessons #EnglishTeacher #vocabulary #ingles

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on the sly

Meaning: when we do something on the sly, we try to do it without anybody knowing about it; we try to do it secretly

On the sly, she put a bottle of champagne in her bag so she could enjoy it later.


a little bird told me

Meaning: we use this expression, when we’ve heard a rumour, or we’ve heard some gossip, we might know the source of it, or we might not.

👱🏻‍♀️ Oh, I hear you’re going to get that promotion, you’re going to become the new manager?

👩🏻‍🦱 Who told you? That’s a secret!

👱🏻‍♀️ A little birdie told me.

So these are references to rumours, gossip or secrets that are not really secret because many people are talking about them.

English idioms related to secrets


to spill the beans

Meaning: to reveal information or disclose a secret

If you accidentally knock a can of bins over, they go everywhere. So when you spill the beans, they’re all out. It’s impossible to get them back into the tin without a lot of effort.

Come on, spill the beans, how’s the new romance? How’s it going? What’s happening? What’s he like?

So you spill the beans, you give them all the details, okay.

I had everything organised for Sarah’s surprise 40th birthday party, but Tara accidentally spilt the beans to her.


to be a fly on the wall

Meaning: to be in a place where something important is happening (negotiation, discussion, row) so you could hear the conversations without anybody knowing that you’re there

I’d give anything to be a fly on the wall in that office to hear exactly what happened.


to cover your tracks

Meaning: to do something to hide your activities from someone

You might delete a few emails that would indicate that you know what’s happening.

Or you might delete some text messages on WhatsApp.

So you want to wipe out any sign that you’ve been somewhere or you’ve gone somewhere so that you don’t have to admit that something has happened.

All three of them tried to cover their tracks, deleting incriminating messages and photos. 

And finally,

to bite your tongue

Meaning: make an effort not to say something that you really want to say or disclose some information or gossip that you’ve heard

At that moment, I had to bite my tongue to stop myself from answering her question.

So these are English idioms about secrets and gossip. I’ll give them to you one more time:

  • my lips are sealed
  • to dish the dirt
  • to keep something under your hat
  • to sweep something under the rug/carpet
  • on the sly
  • a little birdie told me
  • to spill the beans
  • to be a fly on the wall
  • to cover your tracks
  • to bite your tongue

I hope you’ve enjoyed this podcast episode. If you want to contact me, you can do so at www.englishlessonviaskype.com

Very happy to hear from you. If you or anybody you know want one-to-one online English lessons, please give me a shout and I’ll be able to help you.

Thanks for listening. Join me again very soon.

More information

For more information on English grammar rules, English collocations and English idioms, check out the links below:

Used to vs Past Simple – Simple rules to remember

11 Collocations with ALL

You can always study English advanced level at Learning English with the BBC.

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