spill the beans
spill the beans
- disclose a secret or reveal something prematurely
- unintentionally reveal a secret, often spoiling a surprise
- to tell someone about something that should have been a secret
- inadvertently divulge something you shouldn’t
- disclose private information, sometimes maliciously
- let slip something before you were supposed to
- Lauren finally spilled the beans. She has been promoted to manager, and it’s going to upset some people in the office.
- Have you heard that Mike is having an affair with his secretary? His colleague just spilled the beans.
- If you see Patsy at the weekend, get her to spill the beans on her date with Carl.
- We had managed to keep the party a secret from Bill until Katy spilled the beans yesterday.
- We didn’t want to reveal the gender of the baby, but I spilled the beans to my mother that we were painting the baby’s room blue.
- Olivia spills the beans on her brother’s love story in front of everyone in the classroom.
- The Scotland Yard Police have been trying to get him to spill the beans about the anomalies in the department, but he won’t tell them a thing.
Dating back to ancient Greece, the phrase is possibly said to derive from the council member election process. Every councillor used a white bean (yes) or a black/brown bean (no) to vote with. The beans were placed in a jar. When everyone had voted, this jar of beans had to be spilled in order to reveal the number of ‘yes‘ beans.
The use of the verb ‘spill’ as in ‘divulge’ or ‘let out’ has been around since the 1500s. In his Guevara’s Familiar epistles in 1574, Edward Hellowes wrote,
“Although it be a shame to spill it, I will not leaue to say the which, his friends haue said vnto me”.
You might also hear a similar idiom spill your guts having the same meaning.
- spill the soup
- spill someone’s guts
- let the cat out of the bag