[ kis-uhn-tel ]


  1. describing a book, article, interview, etc., in which someone publicly gives details of private interactions, especially sexual relationships:

    Many years later, she spilled all the embarrassing details of her ordeal in a bestselling kiss-and-tell memoir.



  1. denoting the practice of publicizing one's former sexual relationship with a celebrity, esp in the tabloid press

    a kiss-and-tell interview

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Word History and Origins

Origin of kiss-and-tell1

First recorded in 1920–25, for an earlier sense

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Idioms and Phrases

Betray a confidence, as in A real lady doesn't kiss and tell . This idiom originally alluded to betraying an amorous or sexual intimacy. First recorded in 1695, it is still so used, as well as more loosely, as in Don't ask how I voted; I don't kiss and tell .

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Example Sentences

There was never kiss-and-tell during her on-off relationship with Leonardo DiCaprio.

The award-winning Daily Beast columnist on the surprising revelations in the latest guilty pleasure kiss-and-tell.

Award-winning Daily Beast columnist Christopher Buckley on the surprising revelations in the latest guilty pleasure kiss-and-tell.


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More About Kiss And Tell

What does kiss and tell mean?

Kiss and tell means to reveal details about one’s romantic or sexual encounters, especially about the person one has had these encounters with.

The phrase can also be used as a noun referring to the revelation of such details, as in The media was obsessed with the billionaire’s scandalous kiss and tell.

It can also be used as an adjective, in which case it’s typically hyphenated as kiss-and-tell, as in The gossip magazines are primarily interested in kiss-and-tell stories from celebrities. 

All forms of the phrase can also be used more generally in the context of a person revealing private information, especially information they had been entrusted with, as in Tom asked me who I voted for, but I don’t kiss and tell. 

Example: In middle school, you would always know when kids had played spin-the-bottle at a party, because they would always kiss and tell.

Where does kiss and tell come from?

The first records of the verb phrase kiss and tell come from the late 1690s. The first records of the noun usage come from around the 1720s, while the first records of the adjective usage come from the 1960s. The use of the verb sense of kiss can be literal, but it’s typically interpreted as a way of referring to any sexual activity in general. In this way, kiss-and-tell can be thought of as a euphemism, since the act being referred to often involves more than kissing. The word tell is used in the sense of revealing (often secret) information (it’s used in the same way in the term tell-all).

Kiss-and-tell is often used by and in the context of media involving the personal lives of celebrities and famous people. The phrase is used when gossiping or speculating on a celebrity’s love life. Unsurprisingly, celebrities are usually reluctant to kiss and tell when speaking to the media, but it does happen sometimes.

Did you know … ?

What are some words that share a root or word element with kiss and tell

What are some words that often get used in discussing kiss and tell?

How is kiss and tell used in real life?

Kiss and tell is commonly used both in the context of revealing details of one’s own love life as well as in a more figurative way in situations involving revealing secrets.

Try using kiss and tell!

Is kiss and tell used correctly in the following sentence?

The tabloid reporter couldn’t get any scandalous secrets from the movie star because she refused to kiss and tell.

Definitions and idiom definitions from Unabridged, based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

Idioms from The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.




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