The following passage is found in The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton:

... there is a great deal of difference between keeping one’s own secret, and keeping a secret for another soul; so much so that I wish we had two words, that is, a word for a secret of one’s own making, and a word for a secret that one did not make, and perhaps did not wish for, but has chosen to keep, all the same.

Notwithstanding the speaker’s befuddlement, there is a word for a secret thrust upon you - confidence

(often confidences) A secret or private matter told to someone under a condition of trust: the girls exchanged confidences about their parents

But is there a discrete word for a secret of one’s own?

  • 1
    Confidences can and mostly happen to be secrets, but not necessarily: [ibid] "In that stillness, the vastness of the energy touched deep seeds of consciousness in them as they trusted me with their confidences and secrets;" "And there are the autobiographical grasses, exposing old secrets and betraying ancient confidences in exchange for sales." Confidences is thus a related concept to secrets.
    – Kris
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 5:46
  • I had suspected at first glance that you were mistaken in distinguishing two kinds of 'secrets'. On a careful reading, I still suspect the same. There's just one kind of secret -- held close to one's chest -- whether concerning oneself of another.
    – Kris
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 5:49
  • @Kris There are significant differences in whom the secrets affect if revealed, how the revealer and the subject are affected, and who has the moral right to decide to disclose.
    – bib
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 11:43

6 Answers 6


The only thing I can think of is personal secret, but that's a descriptive combination rather than a precise term.


The best I can think of is what we call in France jardin secret [=secret garden].

It could be rendered into English as one's own little secret or one's private world.

E.g. a famous lawyer spends all his weekends reading Ancient Greek poetry, and no one knows it except his wife and closest friends. He'd say: "C'est mon jardin secret" [=It's my secret garden].

  • That reminds me of the 1973 book by feminist writer Nancy Friday titled My Secret Garden, which consists largely of the sexual fantasies of other women which the author had collected.
    – Erik Kowal
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 2:49
  • My understanding of this term is that it's mainly used for things that are fantasized, and not actually happening (like the sexual fantasies in @ErikKowal example). The poetry example thus doesn't feel right, because the lawyer does read it in the week-ends, instead of only dreaming of being a poet. Commented May 19, 2014 at 9:15

Skeletons in one's closet comes to mind.

It was my first date with this girl. I daren't tell her about the skeletons in my closet, I didn't want to put her off.


I can't find a single word either. I congratulate you on finding yours.

The only words I can offer is that if it's solely a personal secret, it must be undisclosed or unrevealed.


You can refer to a secret of you own also as a hidden truth, meaning something personal you don't want or you can't reveal.


In general, secret itself has this intrinsic meaning already and you can make it more clear with adjectives like private, exclusive, unshared etc. You can even say (one's) own secret.

For example:

A crowning paradox of the discourse on honest dissimulation is that one's own secrets are always in danger of being lost, and therefore must never be hidden too well.

Additionally, I will mention some alternative terms that is related to the topic:

Firstly, I would like to add the word personalia:

the accoutrements, concerns or intimations that are personal to one

Secondly, According to Goffman's Theory:

Stigma is defined as the "gap between what a person ought to be and what a person actually is."

Identifies two different types of stigma - discretable stigma and discredited stigma.

The discretable stigma can be hidden. A personal secret or attribute that is unknown to anyone, but the individual.

If the person chooses to conceal the secret from everyone, it becomes a total secrecy and it is associated with self-concealment:

Self-concealment (SC) is a psychological construct defined as “a predisposition to actively conceal from others personal information that one perceives as distressing or negative.” Self-concealment can be understood as an instance of boundary regulation in the maintenance of privacy.

Finally, there is a term called secret-sacred (also used as sacred-secret) which is a loan word or a translation from Australian Aboriginal English. It has religious connotations but it can be applied to the secrets that is sacred to you and to your own life and culture. Though "secret and sacred" is a more common usage in English and in this sense.

secret-sacred (not comparable): In Australian Aboriginal culture, restricted to initiated men, or to women; not public knowledge.

From the book "Australian English - The National Language" By Gerhard Leitner:

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