let the cat out of the bag


let the cat out of the bag


  • to reveal a secret by mistake.
  • to disclose a secret, typically by accident.
  • to divulge previously hidden information.
  • to unintentionally make a secret public.

Example Sentences

  1. I wanted to keep my job offer a secret, but my little brother overheard and let the cat out of the bag.
  2. The movie trailer was supposed to be a surprise, but a blogger let the cat out of the bag a day early.
  3. The team had a special strategy for the finals, but an interview with one of the players let the cat out of the bag.
  4. The kids had baked a cake for their parents’ anniversary, but the smell from the kitchen let the cat out of the bag.
  5. She had promised not to reveal the gender of her baby, but during a chat, she inadvertently let the cat out of the bag.


The phrase originates from markets where animals were provided in bags and piglets would be substituted by cats, which, when out, would be a surprise for the audiences.

In medieval England, farmers would often sell piglets at markets. These piglets were typically handed over in a sack (a “poke” in Old English, which also gives rise to the saying “buying a pig in a poke,” meaning to buy something without inspecting it first). Some unscrupulous sellers, however, would try to scam buyers by putting a less valuable cat in the bag instead of a pig. If a buyer was wise and inspected the contents before completing the purchase, he would “let the cat out of the bag,” revealing the seller’s deceit.

The phrase has been around since the 15th century. The first literary origin comes from “The London Magazine” in the year 1760. In fact, in the time frame of 1750–1770, there are many references to the use of this phrase.



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It is the counterpart to the phrase “A pig in a poke”.

‒ Cracklin’Rosy December 1, 2019

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