Making private or secret information known to others.
Example: Mark bought his son a gift, but he wanted to keep it a surprise until a later date. However, after a few days went by, he was too excited to wait any longer, so he decided to spill the beans early.
In other words, Mark did not want to keep the gift a secret anymore, so he told his son about it.
Spill The Beans – Origin
Spilling the beans refers to someone who makes private information known, but why is that? Why beans, and why are they being spilled? Well, it’s said that this phrase may come from ancient Greece. How so?
Apparently, a way they voted back then was with beans being placed inside of a jar. There were two different colored beans, the white ones meant yes, while black beans meant no. The votes were supposed to be unanimous, so if the jar was accidentally knocked over and the beans spilled out, then the contents would become known. Hence, the phrase ‘spill the beans.’
However, this idiom may not have come from ancient Greece, because the earliest it is found in print, with the meaning ‘to divulge private or secret information’, is from the early 20th century. For example, in the newspaper Smith’s Weekly, 1919, there’s a part from it that reads:
“‘Now get a move on and no risks,’ he declared finally as his henchmen, who had been in the right mood to ‘spill the beans,’ moved off quietly and walked nonchalantly past the policeman.”
- Come on, spill the beans already and tell me what happened yesterday. I really want to know!
Note: Know Your Phrase has the meanings and origins for quite a few expressions. If you have one in particular that you’re trying to find, you might want to use our alphabetical list to navigate around and find it. We also have a list of sports and animal related idioms, with a food one coming later. If you are unable to find the saying that you’re looking for, well, perhaps come back another time since more will be added soon. That’s all for now!