under the table
Meaning: If something is done under the table, it's done secretly, usually because it's illegal or unethical.
- If I do any overtime, can you pay me under the table so I won't have pay tax on it.
- If you make under-the-table payments to customs officials, you can get goods through the port without having them inspected.
Origin: Probably related to the fact that if a package or an envelope is passed under a table, other people cannot easily see what's going on.
Variety: This idiom is typically used in American English but may be used in other varieties of English too.
Newspapers reported that some basketball referees have received under-the-table payments for