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a skeleton in the cupboard | closet

Meaning: If you have a skeleton in the cupboard, or in the closet, you have a secret in your past which could damage you if it became known.

For example:

  • Before we give you the job, we need to know if you have any skeletons in the cupboard which the press could find out about. Things like a criminal record or drug or alcohol problems in the past.

  • Politicians can't afford to have any skeletons in the closet these days. Their enemies are sure to find them.

Note: "A skeleton in the cupboard" is used in British and Australian English while "a skeleton in the closet" is used in American English. The meaning is the same for both.

Quick Quiz:

The newspaper revealed a skeleton in his cupboard when they did a story on
  1. his failure to get into his high school football team
  2. his arrest for selling illegal drugs in university
  3. his sister's divorce from her first husband

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