tight-lipped: Idiom Meaning and Origin

What does ‘tight-lipped’ mean?

The idiom "tight-lipped" means to refuse to speak or to keep quiet about something. It implies a sense of secrecy or unwillingness to reveal information.

Idiom Explorer

Deciphering Reticence: Unraveling 'Tight-Lipped'

The idiom "tight-lipped" has several interpretations that can be traced back to 17th-century English literature. It means refusing to speak or share information due to secrecy, discretion, or unwillingness. The visual metaphor of pressing one's lips together represents a closed and sealed mouth. This idiom is widely used in legal, political, and personal affairs.

One interpretation of "tight-lipped" is its connection to trustworthiness. Being tight-lipped implies the ability to keep secrets, showing loyalty and reliability. It requires self-control and discipline to avoid speaking or providing information desired by others.

In law enforcement, "tight-lipped" refers to individuals who remain silent to avoid self-incrimination. This usage is associated with the right to remain silent, reflecting a person's determination to protect themselves legally.

Furthermore, "tight-lipped" can relate to social dynamics and communication patterns. It implies an unwillingness to engage in gossip or share personal opinions. This connotation can arise from introversion, shyness, or a desire for privacy.

When used in a group setting, "tight-lipped" can imply a collective decision to withhold information or maintain a united front. This usage can be observed in company mergers, negotiations, or diplomatic affairs.

While "tight-lipped" typically reflects a refusal to speak or share information, its interpretation can vary depending on the context and individuals involved. The idiom may evoke a sense of mystery, intrigue, or suspicion due to its association with secrecy and silence.

Another idiomatic expression related to "tight-lipped" is "tight lips." This phrase conveys a similar meaning, emphasizing someone's closed and sealed mouth. It reinforces the idea of refusing to speak or share information.

Similarly, the idiom "keep one's lips sealed" aligns with the concept of being tight-lipped. It implies a conscious effort to maintain silence and secrecy, further emphasizing the refusal to divulge information.

"one's lips are sealed" is another idiom closely related to "tight-lipped." It means that someone has made a commitment or agreement to keep quiet and refrain from sharing information. This idiom reinforces the idea of maintaining secrecy and discretion.

The phrase "keep one's mouth shut" is also related to "tight-lipped." It suggests refraining from speaking or providing information, typically due to a desire for secrecy or privacy. This idiom highlights the importance of self-control and not revealing what one knows.

Example usage

Examples of how the idiom *tight-lipped* can be used in a sentence:

1. The detective remained tight-lipped during the interrogation, refusing to reveal any information about the ongoing investigation.

2. When asked about her relationship with the actor, she gave a tight-lipped smile and declined to comment.

3. Despite the persistent questioning, the politician remained tight-lipped about his plans for the upcoming election.

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