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What Does "Hush-Hush" Mean?

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  • Written By: Jim B.
  • Edited By: M. C. Hughes
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2016
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“Hush-hush” is an English idiom that is generally used when someone wants to keep a piece of information confidential. Such information is generally only kept between two people or, at the most, a small group of people. This phrase is commonly used when someone tells another person to keep something “hush-hush,” meaning that the other person should not relay that item to anyone else he or she encounters. The phrase gets its power from the fact that the word “hush,” which means to keep quiet, is said twice, giving extra emphasis to the need for discretion and silence.

People, on occasion, will stray from using strictly literal language. There may be some occasions when they use words and phrases which actually mean something far different than either the literal definitions of the words or the meaning of the expressions when they were first originated. These words and phrases are known as idioms; they derive their meanings from the ways in which they are used and understood by people in a certain culture. One popular idiom that refers to a necessity for silence is the phrase “hush-hush.”

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When someone uses this phrase, he or she is indicating that a piece of information is purposely being kept secret. It may be because the information could be damaging to other people, or because someone is keeping a surprise in store for someone else. In any case, it conveys a wish that no one tell the information to anyone who has not received prior approval to hear it. As an example, consider the sentence, “I really wanted to keep this party on the hush-hush, but it seems like everybody knows about it now.”

It is common for a person to directly use this phrase as way of telling someone else to not spread information around. This type of usage of the phrase is more like a command to someone else to keep something quiet. For example, someone might day, “I really need you to keep this hush-hush, or else I could get in trouble.”

This is an example of an idiom which takes its meaning from the way the words are phrased. By saying “hush-hush,” the speaker is doubling the emphasis on the word to show its importance. As a result, anything that is described in the manner is intended to be kept from unwanted ears at all costs.

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