What does the idiom "in public" mean?

Are you using the idiom in public but not sure about its meaning? Using idioms, which are important elements of spoken and written language, in the right place strengthens your language skills. Examine the meaning of the in public idiom and the situations in which it is used.

Meaning of "in public"


The phrase ‘in public’ is an idiom which refers to any activity, behavior, or event that is observable by anyone who is not directly involved. It implies that there is a public audience watching or listening, and the person involved has to bear the scrutiny of the public. It can also be used to describe a situation in which more than one person is involved, and thus can affect the reputation of the people involved.


The phrase ‘in public’ is an idiomatic expression and thus has no exact etymology. It is likely a combination of two words, "in" and "public," which both have Latin roots. “In” is derived from the Latin “in” meaning ‘in or into’ and “public” is derived from the Latin “publicus” meaning ‘ open to the public.’


The phrase ‘in public’ is used to describe activities, behaviors, or events that are undertaken in the presence of the general public. It is commonly used to refer to events that are held in public spaces such as parks, streets, plazas, and other open locations. It is also used to describe activities or behaviors that are public in nature, such as speaking on stage or making a public announcement.

Example Sentences

  • I can't believe she said that in public!
  • He was embarrassed when he tripped in public.
  • The protest was held in the public square.
  • My parents never fought in public.

The meanings of the words in the "in public" idiom

Beyond the Literal: Figurative Language in Idioms

Idioms often use figurative language to convey a message that is not meant to be taken literally. For instance, the idiom "bite the bullet" means to endure a painful or difficult situation without complaint, while "hold your horses" means to be patient and wait. Other idioms, like "kick the bucket" or "pop your clogs," use euphemisms to talk about death.


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