I am seeking after a single word for describing "make something or someone confess". Apart from a single word, welcomed are also idioms.

  • 1
    I can see how you can make someone confess, but not something...
    – Erik Kowal
    Aug 19, 2014 at 7:45
  • Oh that is figurative
    – Yes
    Aug 19, 2014 at 7:47
  • Actually, it is wrong.
    – Erik Kowal
    Aug 19, 2014 at 7:48
  • Where is your own research? There are many idiomatic phrases having to do with confessions and the act of making someone confess. Aug 19, 2014 at 15:00

5 Answers 5


The phrase structure break someone down has a relevant sense:

to force someone to give up and tell secrets or agree to do something. After threats of torture, they broke the spy down. They broke down the agent by threatening violence. ‒ thefreedictionary.com

Ngrams for force a confession,wring him out,break him down shows that since about 1860 break him down has appeared in print more often than force a confession; and those phrases have appeared far more frequently than wring him out. The phrases are not strictly comparable, and comprehend only one of many possible pronouns, but the ngrams result agrees with what I think relative use of each has been.

  • ngrams for extract a confession,force a confession,wring him out,break him down shows extract a confession most popular 1960-2010 but at the moment a little less popular than break him down Aug 19, 2014 at 16:46

The expressions I have encountered for this situation are to force a confession (from someone), to extract a confession (from someone), to get someone to come clean, and to induce someone to confess.

But I can't think of a one-word term that conveys this idea. I suspect there isn't one.

  • Extract as a single word +1. I was going to give that answer also.
    – ermanen
    Aug 19, 2014 at 14:52

I'm sure there are many such words/idioms. An effective one I can think of is "come clean".

Per thefreedictionary.com:

come clean (with someone) (about something)

Fig. to be honest with somebody about something.

I want you to come clean with me about your financial status.


come clean to tell the truth, often about something bad that you have been trying to keep a secret

I felt it was time to come clean and tell her what the doctor had told me.

(often + about ) It's time for the Chancellor to come clean about the proposed tax rises.

  • Make confess means the person has to admit the mistakes he/she made. I think, Come clean is having a very broad meaning from this view.
    – Rohith
    Aug 19, 2014 at 7:42
  • This is a valid answer as it applies to the person confessing. But the question asked for a term which means "to make [...] someone confess". However, I do agree that it's time for the Chancellor to come clean about the proposed tax rises.
    – Erik Kowal
    Aug 19, 2014 at 7:46
  • Much appreciated. But if a single word can be provided then that would be better!
    – Yes
    Aug 19, 2014 at 7:52

The phrasal verb wring out can be used

To obtain or extract by applying force or pressure: wrung the truth out of the recalcitrant witness. [American Heritage Dictionary]

This usage is not limited to confessions but may be applied to other information held in confidence or even to other things, such as money.

There is also an idiomatic phrase in US English give someone the third degree

Long and harsh questioning, especially by police, to obtain information or a confession. [Oxford Dictionary Online]


I'd say that such a confession was [coerced] from https://www.google.com/search?q=coerce&oq=coerce&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l5.1367j0j7&sourceid=chrome&es_sm=93&ie=UTF-8

persuade (an unwilling person) to do something by using force or threats.

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