Idioms about secrets and secretive behaviour

Are you good at keeping things under wraps? Do you say bad things about people behind their back? English has several idioms for describing secrets. Here are the most common among them.

Keep under wraps

To keep something (a piece of work or information) under wraps is to keep it a secret.

  • They wanted to keep the wedding under wraps. They didn’t invite even their close friends.

Have something up your sleeve

To have something up your sleeve is to have a secret plan.

  • Don’t think you have fooled him. I am sure he has something up his sleeve.

Be shrouded /cloaked in mystery

If something is shrouded in mystery, it is deliberately kept secret.

  • The murder is shrouded in mystery. The police are yet to find any conclusive evidence against the accused.

Behind closed doors

If something happens behind closed doors, it happens in a place where outsiders cannot see or hear it.

  • The deals were signed behind closed doors.
  • The discussions took place behind closed doors.

There are also some idioms that refer to comments made in private.

Off the record

If a comment is made off the record, it is not supposed to be told to the public.

  • The minister maintained that his comment about intolerance was made off the record. In the strictest confidence

In the strictest confidence

On the understanding that you will not reveal it to another person

  • She told her friend, in the strictest confidence, that she was having an affair with one of her colleagues. (She doesn’t want her friend to tell that secret to anyone.)

Take someone to one side

To take someone to one side is to have a private talk with them.

  • I took him to one side and told him that he should back out of the deal.

Behind your back

If someone says something behind your back, they say it when you are not listening.

  • I had this feeling that they were saying something nasty about me behind my back.


Hi, I am Manjusha. This is my blog where I give English grammar lessons and worksheets. You may also want to check out my other blogs IELTS Practice and NCERT Guides

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