Hidden Agenda

Meaning of Idiom ‘Hidden Agenda’

A person’s hidden agenda is their actual selfish motives, intentions, goals, etc. that they do not publicly reveal; a secret plan. 1Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.,2Ayto, John. Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010.,3McCarthy, Michael. Cambridge International Dictionary of Idioms. Cambridge University Press, 2002


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Usage

The term hidden agenda is usually used when someone performs a certain action, makes a statement, sets a policy, etc. for which they are believed to have selfish ulterior motives that are different than the reasons publically stated. This idiom is often used as the opposite, as in “I have no hidden agenda.” 4Brenner, Gail Abel. Webster’s New World American Idioms Handbook. Wiley, 2003.

Examples Of Use

“Thanks for helping me study for my placement exams,” said Karen. “Well, I admit I had a hidden agenda,” said Ken. “It was an excuse to spend time with you.”

“I’m sure his sudden eagerness to help the community has a hidden agenda.”

“I’m only interested in getting the truth out,” said the corporate whistleblower. “I have no hidden agenda.”

Origin

Used since at least the 1970’s.

The word agenda is used in the sense of one’s underlying intentions or motives.

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Sources   [ + ]

1. Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.
2. Ayto, John. Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010.
3. McCarthy, Michael. Cambridge International Dictionary of Idioms. Cambridge University Press, 2002
4. Brenner, Gail Abel. Webster’s New World American Idioms Handbook. Wiley, 2003.