a skeleton in the closet

skeleton in the/(one's) closet

An embarrassing or shameful secret. Primarily heard in US. If you've got a skeleton in the closet, it will probably be exposed during this campaign. He didn't believe me when I said that I didn't have any skeletons in my closet.
See also: closet, skeleton

a skeleton in the closet

BRITISH, AMERICAN or

a skeleton in the cupboard

BRITISH
COMMON If someone has a skeleton in the closet or a skeleton in the cupboard, they have a secret that would cause great embarrassment or shame if other people knew about it. But everybody's got vices, haven't they? There's always a skeleton in the closet somewhere. Note: This expression is variable. Show me somebody with no skeletons in their cupboard, and I'll show you a skilful liar.
See also: closet, skeleton

a skeleton in the ˈcupboard/ˈcloset

something shocking, embarrassing, etc. that has happened to you or your family in the past that you want to keep secret: The new presidential candidate is certainly popular, but does he have any skeletons in the closet?
References in periodicals archive ?
They appear shell-shocked by dwindling sales, demoralized employees, evaporating market capitalization - and the lingering possibility, however remote, that a skeleton in the closet could trigger the next world-class business collapse.
LINSEY Dorrans has found a skeleton in the closet - and she'd like to reunite it with the owner.
The evening's program, titled A Skeleton in the Closet," opened on the Venezuelan performer known as Daffy Duck, whose naked torso and hoop skirt provide the screen onto which slides of textiles and art are projected.