What does the idiom "make a clean breast of" mean?

You are wondering about the meaning of the phrase make a clean breast of, maybe you heard it in a TV show, movie or theater play. Although this idiom is not used very often, it enriches your capacity of expression and strengthens communication. In which case is the expression make a clean breast of used and what is its meaning?

Meaning of "make a clean breast of"

Meaning

The phrase 'make a clean breast of' means to openly admit and confess to something, typically a wrong-doing or guilt, without hiding any details from someone. This expression originates from its literal meaning of removing one’s clothing, particularly the breastplate of armor, in order to signify a willingness to surrender and make peace.

Etymology

The phrase 'make a clean breast of' has its roots in the 16th century and is a literal translation from the French phrase 'faire un sein net'. This phrase is believed to have been taken from the medieval custom of surrendering in battle by removing one’s armor and breastplate, thus making a 'clean breast' of their vulnerability.

The literal meaning of 'make a clean breast of' is to remove one’s clothing, particularly the breastplate of armor, in order to signify a willingness to surrender and make peace. This expression was then adopted by the English language as a figurative way to describe confessing to something, typically a wrong-doing or guilt.

Usage

The phrase 'make a clean breast of' is generally used as an idiom as a means of describing someone who is openly admitting and confessing to something, typically a wrong-doing or guilt. It is often used in the context of someone who wants to clear the burden of a misleading or false accusation, or to unburden themselves of the guilt associated with a certain wrongdoing.

For example, if someone is accused of theft, they could 'make a clean breast of' by confessing their guilt and openly admitting to the crime. The phrase 'make a clean breast of' can also be used in the context of someone who is attempting to unburden the guilt associated with a misdeed or wrongdoing, such as cheating on a partner.

Example Sentences

  • After I was accused of stealing, I decided to make a clean breast of and confess my guilt.
  • He wanted to unburden himself from the guilt, so he decided to make a clean breast of and tell his partner the truth.
  • I felt it was the only way to

The meanings of the words in the "make a clean breast of" idiom

Idioms have a common language

"The early bird catches the worm" is an English idiom that means that those who wake up early and start their day early are more likely to succeed. A similar idiom in Spanish is "El que madruga, Dios le ayuda," which translates to "God helps those who rise early." This idiom emphasizes the importance of starting the day early in order to achieve success.

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