I forgot this word. I tell a person a secret and ask him not to tell it to anyone else. That 2nd person tells another person and tells him not to disclose it to anyone else. But this goes on.

Important thing here is that, the info should be kept secret. But he assumes he is only disclosing this to another person (may be a close friend or spouse) and that that info will not go out. But the other person assumes the same and passes on to his close friend or spouse or someone s/he most trusts, etc..

Note that, the info passes from one person to another person. Not group or mass public.

  • 2
    A 'rumour' perhaps? 'Gossip'?
    – A E
    Nov 7, 2014 at 17:38
  • 4
    a "non-secret"...
    – Oldcat
    Nov 7, 2014 at 19:08
  • 4
    Gossip is a good answer here, for many reasons. There was a game we played as kids called telephone, but it wasn't intended to be a secret. Nov 7, 2014 at 20:28
  • 1
    Are you looking for grapevine?
    – ermanen
    Nov 8, 2014 at 15:39
  • This sounds like Chinese Whispers, "also known as broken telephone, operator, grapevine, gossip, don't drink the milk, secret message, the messenger game and pass the message." en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_whispers
    – TK-421
    Dec 12, 2014 at 13:19

3 Answers 3


One technical phrase for it would be "single-strand chain"---I tell you a rumor and then you pass it along to another person, who then tells another, and on-and-on....

"single-strand-chains" are a kind of Grapevine Transmission Pattern" or "Informal Communication Network", a strategy sometimes used in the corporative world.


I believe you may be referring to "open secret" i.e. a "secret" that isn't a secret at all because everyone knows about it?

  • 1
    ok. Not sure I've ever heard of a single word that describes a confidence that is broken is such a specific way... Whispernet?
    – Marv Mills
    Nov 7, 2014 at 16:47
  • 4
    Is this an answer or a comment? Nov 7, 2014 at 16:56
  • 1
    Don't understand downvote. Suggestion was not the correct answer sought by OP, but that doesn't invalidate it as a suggestion in the absence of a clear answer? @Kristina, the fact it was posted as an answer should give you a clue. What is your point?
    – Marv Mills
    Nov 7, 2014 at 21:30
  • 1
    Marv, I'm not the downvoter, for starters, but my point is that an answer is not a question. It's an answer with hopefully, some cited source to back it up. What you posted as an answer is usually a comment to the OP to get more clarification so an answer can be given. Nov 7, 2014 at 21:38
  • 3
    I must disagree- the OP asked for some information. In my opinion they are probably mistaken and there is no such one-word answer to describe their meaning. I asked them if what they were seeking was my suggestion- rather than answering a question with a question, it is merely a colloquial way of suggesting an answer. I would have thought that was obvious, though clearly not to everyone.
    – Marv Mills
    Nov 7, 2014 at 21:41

In common with others who answered or commented, I can't think of a single word that answers your question, but the phrase on the QT seems pretty close.

From dictionary.com:


abbreviation (informal)

  1. quiet

  2. on the q.t., secretly

And from the same entry, quoting The Dictionary of American Slang:

on the QT

adjective phrase

: Remember, what I said is on the QT

There is a detailed discussion of on the QT in this answer.


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