I am thinking there could be an idiom that states that you or someone revealed a secret unintentionally? Can you think of an idiom like that? I am looking for an idiom I can use to write a blog post about the recent incident where Secretary Pompeo unintentionally revealed the dirty secrets behind the CIA.


2 Answers 2


Let the cat out of the bag is the idiomatic answer to this.

Oxford (and google dictionary): Reveal a secret carelessly or by mistake.

Edit: It appears commentators dispute the 'unintentionality' of this phrase. Further definitions in support:

Dictionary.com: to divulge a secret, especially inadvertently or carelessly <- scroll down to idioms

Cambridge: to allow a secret to be known, usually without intending to

Collins: to disclose a secret, often by mistake

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    Without having a reference: I personally would say that this is the idiom to use when the secret was palpable, like somebody was beating around the bush for a while until they finally let the cat out of the bag. Like junior wants to have the car for the weekend and doesn't dare ask outright. May 8, 2019 at 10:56
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    Oh, plus it is not necessarily unintentional. Perhaps more often used when the secret was finally revealed intentionally. May 8, 2019 at 10:58
  • This is actually an idiom, so I will accept it as an answer.
    – aLex
    May 8, 2019 at 18:32
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    No, that is just "revealing a secret", but it is not necessarily "unintentionally".
    – Len
    May 9, 2019 at 4:05
  • I've practically only ever heard this expression used when someone intentionally reveals information - not in an accidental way, and am very surprised so many dictionary references include the fact it's done by mistake. That, in my experience, is seldom how it's used. (Especially compared to @Andrw's answer, which includes "let slip", which is almost always used when something is revealed unintentionally). (...When you take this literally, letting the cat out of a bag is an intentional action, lending further credence to it being primarily an active doing, not unintentional...)
    – BruceWayne
    May 9, 2019 at 16:43

Yes, there are a number which imply "by accident":

Mike Pompeo let slip some of the CIA's secrets.

Mike Pompeo spilled some of the CIA's secrets.

Mike Pompeo let out some of the CIA's secrets.

Mike Pompeo blabbed some of the CIA's secrets.

Mike Pompeo gave away some of the CIA's secrets.

Mike Pompeo blurted out some of the CIA's secrets.

If you want to be clear, you can always specify that the action was unintentional:

Mike Pompeo unwittingly spilled the beans on some of the CIA's secrets.

Mike Pompeo inadvertently let the cat out of the bag on some of the CIA's secrets.

There are others that mean "reveal", but you need to specify whether this was intentional or unintentional: divulge, disclose, leak, expose, confess etc.

Mike Pompeo unintentionally divulged some of the CIA's secrets.

Mike Pompeo accidentally leaked some of the CIA's secrets.

and so on.

(Edit) As a few of the comments suggest, all of these verbs can also be used for intentional disclosure. Example:

Mike Pompeo may have deliberately let slip some of the CIA's secrets.

I just feel the ones in the first part, by default, sound unintentional. By making them intentional it adds the nuance of duplicity -- which is to say, the subject is only pretending to "accidentally" reveal some information.

Still, opinions on this will vary from person to person.

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    Don't forget "Let the cat out of the bag"
    – mgillesp
    May 7, 2019 at 19:13
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    Blabbed seems the closest to what OP is driving at. I'm assuming this is a hit-piece on Pompeo rather than something more nuanced.
    – Richard
    May 7, 2019 at 19:23
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    I think the key here is the inclusion of unintentionally, inadvertently, unwittingly, or accidentally (or other appropriate synonym). Without those, any of the statements could be taken to mean he did so intentionally.
    – asgallant
    May 7, 2019 at 20:53
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    @asgallant: "let slip" definitely means it was accidental/inadvertent unless there is a specific context that push it towards a meaning of "intentionally, but coyly" (I checked several dictionaries, and the accidental/inadvertent/unintentional aspect is part of the definition, not merely a connotation I'm inferring from local usage). I agree that the rest of them require more effort to make the release inadvertent; by default, they either imply intent or don't imply anything one way or the other. May 7, 2019 at 21:24
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    I think 'let slip' is the only example definitely showing unintentionality, 'blurted' is a maybe. 'Blabbed' and 'gave away' sound like they're definitely intentional to my ear.
    – mcalex
    May 8, 2019 at 6:16

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