What does ‘Spill the beans’ mean?

to reveal someone’s private information or a secret

American slang


She has already spilt the beans about the time of her sister’s birthday party.

Buckley then spilt the beans about his health challenges and his need for a kidney donor.


There are a few theories on the origin of this phrase. The first fits in with the main idea of the slang but has wrong timing. The first theory refers to the voting process in ancient Greece. People put white (positive vote) or black (negative vote) beans in a jar to present their decision. Hence, if anyone turned over a jar with those beans, the secret voting lost its sense.

Another theory proves that the phrase first appeared in the 14th and 20th centuries as a part of the phrases “spill the blood” and “spoil the beans”. However, it is hard to explain the background of the word “beans”. Even a British slang dictionary, the Phrase Finder does not present additional explanations on this issue.