What Does 'Let the Cat Out of the Bag' Mean?

When someone 'Lets the Cat Out of the Bag,' they're not opening a tote with a feline inside. This idiom actually means to reveal a secret or disclose information that was supposed to be hidden. It's often used when someone accidentally shares something that another person was trying to keep under wraps. 🚀

Download App

The Tale Behind 'Let the Cat Out of the Bag'

While its exact origin is debated, one popular theory dates back to medieval markets. Dishonest merchants would place a cat in a bag instead of a pig and sell it. If someone let the cat out, the deceit was revealed. Another theory involves the 'cat-o'-nine-tails,' a whip used for punishment on ships, which was kept in a bag; revealing it meant trouble was coming.

Did You Know? Fascinating Aspects of 'Let the Cat Out of the Bag'

This phrase is a staple in English-speaking cultures and has been used in literature and film to add a dramatic effect when a character accidentally reveals a crucial piece of information or when an unexpected truth comes to light.

Conversational Use of 'Let the Cat Out of the Bag'

It's a versatile idiom that can be used in informal settings among friends, or even in literature and movies for dramatic purposes. It's not typically used in formal contexts due to its casual nature.

'Let the Cat Out of the Bag' in Everyday Language

Here are some examples to illustrate the use of 'Let the Cat Out of the Bag':

  • He let the cat out of the bag about their surprise party—it was supposed to be a secret!
  • During the meeting, Janet let the cat out of the bag about the upcoming merger.
  • I didn't mean to let the cat out of the bag; it just slipped out in conversation.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is it bad to 'Let the Cat Out of the Bag'?

It can be, especially if the secret was important or personal. It's often used to describe an accidental slip rather than a deliberate reveal.

How can an ESL learner remember this idiom?

Associate the idiom with the vivid image of a cat being released from a bag and the resulting surprise or commotion.

Can 'Let the Cat Out of the Bag' be used in business settings?

While it's more common in informal conversation, it can be used metaphorically in business to discuss the unintentional disclosure of confidential information.

Are there equivalent idioms in other languages?

Many languages have their own idioms for revealing secrets, often with different metaphors but similar meanings.

Ready to chat like a pro and toss around idioms like confetti? Jump into Metkagram's totally free English Idioms course and start slinging those phrases with style. Just a click and you're in! Let's get this idiom party started! 🎉

This piece reflects the expertise of Metkagram's team of linguists. Explore our language learning innovations on our LinkedIn page.

🏆 We hope you enjoyed diving into the depths of our content. But guess what? There’s so much more that awaits you in the world of Metkagram. Don’t let this be the end. There’s a treasure trove of English wonders waiting for you on the other side. Ready to unlock it?

Get App