Make a clean breast of it


      • confess
        To admit to something, especially a wrongdoing or mistake, in a sincere and open manner

    Examples of Make a clean breast of it

    • John had been accused of embezzlement, and the authorities demanded that he make a clean breast of it.

      In this context, "making a clean breast of it" means confessing fully and completely to a wrongdoing or mistake. The phrase comes from the image of removing one's breastplate or shirt, exposing the chest or breasts, and revealing all one's secrets or sins.

    • As the criminal investigation intensified, Sarah knew that she would have to make a clean breast of her involvement in the scheme.

      This example illustrates the use of the idiom in a more active and problematic situation. It shows that in order to avoid further complications, Sarah recognized the necessity of being completely honest and forthcoming about her part in the wrongdoing.

    • The CEO admitted he needed to make a clean breast of the financial irregularities that had been uncovered, in order to regain the trust of the board and the shareholders.

      This example shows the idiom being used in a more formal and business-oriented setting. It highlights the importance of transparency and accountability in corporate governance and leadership.

    • The scientist confessed to the mistake in her research findings, making a clean breast of it despite the potential for negative consequences, as she believed in the importance of scientific integrity and the importance of correcting erroneous findings.

      This example showcases the use of the idiom in an academic or scholarly context, where accuracy, honesty, and reliability are essential values. It demonstrates the importance of admitting and correcting mistakes or errors, even if it may result in negative consequences.

    • The accused finally decided to make a clean breast of it and confessed to the crime.

      To "make a clean breast of it" means to confess fully and honestly to wrongdoing or misdeeds. In this example, the accused has been hiding something and instead of keeping it a secret, they decided to come clean and reveal the truth about their actions. This phrase originated from the Middle English expression "clene breest," which meant to reveal something that was previously hidden, often in the context of a confession. In ancient times, monks would remove their hoods and show their unshorn chest as a sign of their sincerity during confession. This symbolic gesture became associated with the idea of being truthful and honest, leading to the use of the term to describe the act of confessing one's sins.

    • After years of keeping secrets, the author finally made a clean breast of it in his autobiography.

      In this example, the author has written an autobiography and in it, they have decided to reveal all the truths about their life, even if those truths are not flattering. By doing so, they are making a clean breast of it, admitting to any wrongdoing or mistakes that they may have made in the past. This phrase may also be used metaphorically to describe someone revealing a hidden truth or detail that has been kept confidential.

    • The athlete was caught cheating, but he finally made a clean breast of it and explained what had happened.

      In this example, the athlete had been accused of cheating, but instead of denying the accusation, they chose to admit to it and explain what had happened. By making a clean breast of it, they were able to take responsibility for their actions and show their commitment to honesty and integrity. This phrase is often used in situations where someone has been accused of wrongdoing or misconduct, but decides to confess and make things right.

    • The politician apologized for his mistakes and made a clean breast of it during a press conference.

      In this example, the politician has made a public apology for any mistakes or misdeeds they may have committed, and have taken the opportunity to make a clean breast of it. By admitting to any wrongdoing openly and honestly, they are demonstrating their integrity and commitment to transparency. This phrase may also be used to describe someone revealing a sensitive or embarrassing detail in order to clear their name or set the record straight. Here, the phrase is being used in the context of a public apology, but it can also be used in more private situations, such as during a marriage counseling session or a personal confession to a friend or loved one.


    The idiom "make a clean breast of it" is commonly used to urge someone to confess to something honestly and openly. It can be used in various contexts such as in personal relationships, at work, or in legal matters to encourage someone to come clean about a situation or wrongdoing. The intention is to emphasize the importance of being honest and facing the consequences of one's actions.

    Origin of "Make a clean breast of it"

    The origin of the idiom "make a clean breast of it" can be traced back to the Middle Ages, where the word "breast" was used to refer to the chest or heart. The term "clean breast" was used to describe the act of baring one's chest or heart, which symbolized honesty and openness. Over time, the idiom evolved to its current meaning of confessing or admitting to something in a sincere and transparent manner.

    One of the earliest recorded uses of the idiom can be found in the works of William Shakespeare. In his play "Henry VI, Part 2," the character King Henry uses the phrase "make a clean breast" to urge someone to confess their sins. This usage helped popularize the idiom and solidify its meaning in the English language.