Under Wraps Meaning – When and How To Convey Secrets

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Danielle McLeod

Danielle McLeod is a highly qualified secondary English Language Arts Instructor who brings a diverse educational background to her classroom. With degrees in science, English, and literacy, she has worked to create cross-curricular materials to bridge learning gaps and help students focus on effective writing and speech techniques. Currently working as a dual credit technical writing instructor at a Career and Technical Education Center, her curriculum development surrounds student focus on effective communication for future career choices.

Under wraps is an idiomatic expression meaning to hide something from view. This phrase, with origins deeply connected to the world of horse racing, goes beyond mere concealment. It encapsulates the art of hiding something from view. 

Idioms, like under wraps, are words and phrases that usually start with a literal meaning but, over the years, take on a figurative connotation. Learning how to use them in a modern context can help strengthen your English language skills.

This article highlights what under wraps means, how it is used, its origins, and multiple variations and related terms. Keep reading and test your knowledge with a quiz at the end. 

Under Wraps Meaning – When and How To Convey Secrets

What Does the Idiom Under Wraps Mean?

The idiom keep under wraps means to conceal or make something secret. The essence of this idiom lies in the idea of intentionally keeping something hidden or confidential, typically to generate suspense, maintain surprise, or control the release of information.

Collins Dictionary states that to keep something under wraps means “to keep something secret and not reveal it to anyone.” Furthermore, Merriam-Webster notes that if something is under wraps, it is “known to only a few people.”

Its literal relation provides the image of keeping things covered or underneath something. Its origins come directly from the practice of concealing a racehorse’s speed before a race to avoid competitive spying. We explain this in further detail below. 

Variations of Under Wraps

Using the expression under wraps can be done in various ways to get your point across. Consider the following variations to help make your message clear:

  • Keep it under wraps
  • Under wrappings
  • Keeping it under wraps

How Is Under Wraps Commonly Used in Context?

The idiom under wraps is exclusively used to explain something hidden or secret. Its usage in sentences requires a context that either implies or explicitly expresses the act of keeping something hidden or confidential.

What Are the Different Ways to Use Under Wraps?

Here are some different ways you can use this phrase effectively:

  • Keeping a secret: “Raven has a surprise party for Bellamy under wraps.”
  • Maintaining confidentiality: “The project details are under wraps until the official announcement.”
  • Concealing information: “The company is keeping the new product features under wraps until the launch.”
  • Secrecy in planning: “The team is keeping their strategy under wraps to catch their competitors off guard.”
  • Anticipation and surprise: “The movie plot is under wraps, creating anticipation among fans.”
  • Hidden preparations: “The chef keeps the recipe under wraps, adding to the mystery of the dish.”
  • Restricted information: “The government has the details of the operation under wraps for security reasons.”
  • Delayed disclosure: “The findings of the study are under wraps until the research is complete.”

Where Can You Find Examples of the Idiom Under Wraps?

You can find examples of the phrase under wraps in various contexts in written and spoken English. The following are some places where you might encounter examples:

  • Literature and books
  • News articles
  • Movie and TV reviews
  • Business and marketing
  • Conversation and everyday speech
  • Entertainment news
  • Official announcements
  • Social media

Here are some examples of the idiom under wraps used in media publications:

They can keep under wraps most personnel records, criminal investigative reports, information related to economic development projects, just to name some of the most commonly shielded documents. (The Northside Sun)

It almost feels like a secret society, but with members numbering in the hundreds of thousands in 191 countries and on all seven continents, geocaching is difficult to keep under wraps. (The Clinton Herald)

What Are Some Tips for Using the Idiom Under Wraps Effectively?

Some tips on how to effectively use the idiom under wraps in various contexts include the following: 

  • Contextual appropriateness: Use under wraps when secrecy or confidentiality is evident or implied.
  • Clarity and specificity: Ensure that the context makes it clear what is being kept hidden or confidential.
  • Variety in expression: Explore different ways to convey secrecy or anticipation using the phrase in various contexts.
  • Match tone and setting: Consider the formality of the situation; use alternatives in formal writing and choose idioms fitting the tone.
  • Avoid overuse: Use the expression judiciously to maintain its impact and not dilute its meaning through frequent repetition.
  • Be mindful of the audience: Gauge your audience to ensure they understand the idiomatic expression, especially in international or diverse settings.

What Is the Origin of the Idiom Under Wraps?

Under Wraps vs. Keep Under Wraps
Under wraps and keep under wraps usage trend.

The term under wraps was first used in a literal sense in the sport of horse racing, dating back to at least the 1890s. The practice of keeping a horse under wraps in a horse race means to slow a horse down to hide the true speed that the horse can attain. 

The phrase refers to wrapping the bridle’s reins around the hand to hold the horse back and slow it down. This may allow the horse to save its strength for a sudden burst of energy near the end of the race, taking the other riders by surprise.

Its first known use in publication was in May 1893 in the Chicago Daily Tribune, where the practice of under wraps was placed in its proper context.

How Did the Idiom Evolve Over Time?

Over time, the idiom became a popular way to express anything that was held back. It was quickly applied to other sports to figuratively mean holding back. For example, the San Francisco Chronicle recorded the following pertaining to football in November 1910: “The first California team is being kept under wraps in preparation for the game with the University of Nevada on Saturday.”

What Are Some Related Terms to Under Wraps?

To better understand the context of the expression, consider the following synonyms and antonyms to ensure your message is clear in speech and writing. 

Under Wraps Meaning – When and How To Convey Secrets 1


  • Behind closed doors
  • In secrecy
  • In the shadows
  • In the dark
  • In the vault
  • Confidential
  • Undercover
  • Under lock and key


  • Revealed
  • Public
  • Open
  • Unveiled
  • Disclosed
  • Exposed

Under Wraps Meaning: Test Your Knowledge!

Choose the correct answer.

Let’s Review

The idiom under wraps is used in contexts involving secrecy, confidentiality, or hidden preparations, conveying the deliberate concealment of information.

In essence, understanding the origins, variations, and effective usage of the idiom under wraps unveils not only its linguistic evolution but also its timeless relevance in conveying secrecy, making it a valuable asset in the tapestry of the English language.