Air Dirty Laundry In Public

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Air One's Dirty Linens in Public
Wash One's Dirty Laundry/Linens in Public
Dirty Laundry (noun)

Meaning of Idiom 'Air (One's) Dirty Laundry in Public

To air one's ditry laundry in public means to reveal personal matters in public which should probably be left private. This expression especially refers to unsavory secrets about one's private life. 1


Often this idiom is shortened to 'dirty laundry,' which is used as a noun to refer to the types of details that, when revealed, could sully a person's reputation, threaten their career, etc. Tabloid reporters are said to deal in dirty laundry, meaning they pursue stories concerning salacious details about the private lives of celebrities, politicians, etc.

Examples of Use

"My neighbors are always loudly arguing with each other in the front yard and accusing each other of cheating, etc. I've never understood people who choose to air their dirty laundry in public."

"My cousin was a reporter for a greasy tabloid for years. She finally got tired of dealing with other people's dirty laundry and quit."


First used in English in 1867, this idiom derived from an old French proverb, Il fault laver son linge sale en famille, meaning "One should wash one's dirty laundry at home." Napolean used this proverb when he returned from his exile in Elba in 1815.

Airing laundry or linen refers to exposing it to fresh or warm air in order to dry it or to freshen it.

1. Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.

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