Know where the bodies are buried is an American idiom of fairly recent origin. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal meaning. We will examine the meaning of the phrase know where the bodies are buried, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.
To know where the bodies are buried means to know the closely guarded secrets of someone or an organization. These secrets may be criminal, immoral, or simply embarrassing, confidential or proprietary. The idiom know where the bodies are buried is often used in business. The earliest known use of the phrase is in the American film Citizen Kane, directed by Orson Welles. In it, Kane’s widow says, “You can learn a lot from him. He knows where the bodies are buried.” There were no murders in the film Citizen Kane, so the phrase was taken figuratively. This figurative use of the phrase know where the bodies are buried caught on quickly, even though the film Citizen Kane was a box office flop. Related phrases are knows where the bodies are buried, knew where the bodies were buried, knowing where the bodies are buried.
“He never objected to me writing it because, while I know where the bodies are buried, I’m not going to sully the reputation of the band for the benefit of my own ego.” (The Irish Times)
That’s not to say that Flynn might not know where the bodies are buried, if there were bodies to be found. (Vanity Fair Magazine)
He always said he needed to write a memoir, and I always believed he knew where the bodies were buried. (The Jackson Free Press)