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blow the gaff

to reveal a secret


to blow the gaff = alles ausplaudern, verraten



I say (the word) 'Britain' advisedly, for, as Rishi Sunak has noted, in remarks which qualify for the expression 'BLOWING THE GAFF', that one part of the UK remains in the single market: the part, Northern Ireland."

William Keegan - The Guardian (16th April 2023)

“BLOW THE GAFF: The charity Protect is celebrating 25 years of whistleblower protection.”

Karen Jordan - Accounting and Business Magazine (15th January 2019)

Did you

blow the gaff

- to make known a secret

- to reveal a secret especially in a public way

The Cambridge Dictionary / Merriam-Webster


The word "gaff" is of uncertain origin but is thought to have originated in 18th century England as a secret language used by criminals to communicate without being understood by others.

The verb "to blow" in the phrase can be traced back to the early 16th century, where it was used in the sense of disclosing or making something known. In this context, "blow" is similar to "expose", which is often used in expressions like "to blow one's cover" or "to blow the whistle”.

Thus, "to blow the gaff" literally means to expose the secret or trick — it has been in use since the early 19th century.


In 1972, President Richard Nixon's reelection campaign committee attempted to break into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington D.C.

The burglars were caught and arrested, but the Nixon administration initially denied any involvement in the break-in. However, a series of leaks from an anonymous source known as "Deep Throat" to reporters at The Washington Post eventually led to the unraveling of the scandal and Nixon's resignation in 1974.

The gaff was blown when one of the burglars, James W. McCord Jr., sent a letter to the judge overseeing the case, admitting that the White House had ordered the break-in and that he had perjured himself under pressure from the Nixon administration.


betray a confidence, blab, blabbermouth, BLOW THE GAFF (the lid off, the whistle on), break the silence (the news), breach confidentiality (privacy, secrecy, security), bust the myth, come clean, confess all, disclose a secret (confidential information), expose a conspiracy (a plot, the naked truth, the facts), give the game away, give up the goods, let the cat out of the bag, let slip, lift the veil, leak the news, peel back the curtain, rat on, reveal a cover-up (all, the inside story, the skeleton in the closet, the secret, the truth), shine a light on the truth, sing, snitch, spill the beans (details, dirt, juice, scoop, the story), squeal, tattle, tell all, turn informant, uncover/unmask a scandal (the truth)

SMUGGLE OWAD into an English conversation, say something like:

“If you're planning a surprise party, make sure you warn the inner-circle not to BLOW THE GAFF.”

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