skeleton in the closet

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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
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2022 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

skeleton(s) in the closet

a hidden and shocking secret. You can ask anyone about how reliable I am. I don't mind. I don't have any skeletons in the closet. My uncle was in jail for a day once. That's our family's skeleton in the closet.
See also: closet, skeleton
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

skeleton in the closet

A shameful secret, as in Both her parents were alcoholics; that was the skeleton in her closet. This metaphoric term alludes to a murder victim long concealed in a closet, possibly based on some true incident that is now forgotten. [Early 1800s]
See also: closet, skeleton
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

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?
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

skeleton in the closet, the

A shameful secret. This term likens a family secret to a murder victim hidden away in a closet or cupboard. If it ever was based on such an incident, the history has been lost. In any event, the metaphor became current in the early nineteenth century. Thackeray used it in several novels, as did Dickens, George Meredith, and other nineteenth-century British writers, and it remains current.
See also: skeleton
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer

skeleton in the closet

A hidden shame. As if hiding a murder victim or another object that would cause great distress to the hider if found, to have a skeleton in the closet is to have a secret of any sort that you don't want revealed.
See also: closet, skeleton
Endangered Phrases by Steven D. Price Copyright © 2011 by Steven D. Price
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References in periodicals archive ?
Skeleton in the Closet: Shut down the federal government in 1995 because Bill Clinton made him use the back door of Air Force One.
Skeleton in the Closet: Was one of the Keating Five.
Skeleton in the Closet: Not his fault, but one-third of Americans say they won't vote for a Mormon.
A Skeleton in the Closet: Remembering My Spirit is available in bookstores and through
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.