Open Secret – Idiom, Meaning and Origin

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

An open secret is just information that’s supposed to be confidential or hidden but is actually well-known by most people. This idiom is also considered an oxymoron, blending open and secret.

Idioms, like this one, are phrases where the words together have a different meaning than their individual definitions. They play a significant role in elevating our written and spoken language because they offer different ways to express our emotions and intent metaphorically.

But what are the origins of this paradoxical phrase, and how can you work it into your own conversations? It’s pretty easy, but I’ll explain its meaning and usage in sentences.

Open Secret – Idiom Meaning and Origin

Is the Idiom ‘Open Secret’ an Oxymoron?

The term open secret is considered an oxymoron because it combines contradictory ideas. If something is open, it can’t really be a secret. Can it?

Open Secret Meaning Explained

An open secret is supposed to be confidential but is widely recognized or easily seen. The term usually refers to unacknowledged truths within groups of people, be it friends or even the government.

It’s kind of like seeing celebrities fall victim to drug and alcohol abuse, but it’s never publically confirmed. But everyone with eyes can see the truth out in the open, aka the open secret.

Origin and Etymology Behind Open Secret

Open Secret Ngram
Open secret usage trend.

The term open secret gained some popularity as an idiom in the 19th century. The obvious contradiction in the phrase makes it memorable and impactful, capturing the essence of something that’s paradoxically both hidden and known.

It likely derived from the title of a Spanish play by Calderón in 1642, El Secreto a Voces, which translates as “The Noisy Secret.”

Open Secret Synonyms

If you want to diversify your vocabulary, consider these alternatives for open secret.

  • Common knowledge
  • Unofficial truth
  • Public secret
  • Known secret
  • Not-so-secret secret

Using the Idiom ‘Open Secret’ in Sentence Examples

Open Secret – Idiom Meaning and Origin 1

  • It’s an open secret that our CEO plans to retire next year. He’s in his nineties.
  • The open secret in the accounting department is that budgets will be cut next quarter.
  • Their forbidden relationship is an open secret within our circle of friends.
  • The corruption in local government is an open secret the whole town is aware of.
  • It’s an open secret that Alice wrote the article, even though it was published anonymously.
  • Among hardcore fans, it’s an open secret that the sequel is already in production.
  • The open secret in Hollywood is that the film was a financial disaster despite doing fairly well at the box office.
  • The new policy is still an open secret, but it’ll be officially announced next week.
  • It’s an open secret that the star quarterback plans to transfer to another school, but her parents haven’t told the principal yet.
  • The open secret is that the old family recipe is just Nestle Toll House Cookie Dough.

No Secrets Here!

It’s no secret that the idiom open secret is an oxymoron that can be used in many contexts. If you ever come across a situation where something is widely known by most people but is supposed to be a secret, you’ll know exactly how to describe it! Check out my other idiomatic guides like this one right here on Grammarist!