state secret

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English[edit]

Alternative forms[edit]

Noun[edit]

state secret (plural state secrets)

  1. Information which pertains to the affairs of a country and access to which is restricted by the government.
    • 1711, Jonathan Swift, The Journal to Stella, ch. 2: Letter 16:
      I'll tell you one great State secret: the Queen, sensible how much she was governed by the late Ministry, runs a little into t'other extreme, and is jealous in that point.
    • 1849, Herman Melville, Redburn: His First Voyage, ch. 40:
      [T]here are another set of rascals prowling about the docks, chiefly at dusk, who make strange motions to you, and beckon you to one side, as if they had some state secret to disclose, intimately connected with the weal of the commonwealth.
    • 1905, E. Phillips Oppenheim, A Maker of History, ch. 5:
      "Your brother," he continued, "in his travels on the Continent stumbled by chance upon a State secret of international importance."
    • 2005, Stella Mapenzauswa, "Four face spy charges as Zimbabwe powerplay heats up," Sydney Morning Herald (Australia), 1 Jan. (retrieved 21 Sep 2010):
      Zimbabwean prosecutors have charged four men including top figures from President Robert Mugabe's party with selling state secrets to foreign agents.

Usage notes[edit]

  • Sometimes used sarcastically in negative constructions, such as not a state secret, to indicate that the described information is not at all secret, but is, to the contrary, widely known among the general public. For example:
The poor quality of Chinese schools is not a state secret.

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