Keeping a Secret in Chinese

The Chinese word for secrets is 秘密 (mìmì). (mì) means secret or mysterious. (mì) can mean close, closed, dense, closely spaced, or secret. Today we will focus on the last definition of this word mentioned above.

Wǒ gàosù nǐ yī gè mìmì.
Let me tell you a secret.

秘方 (mìfāng) is a secret recipe. 祖传 (zǔchuan) means passed down from one’s ancestors. It used to be very difficult to find out how certain Chinese foods are prepared, because the 祖传秘方 (zǔchuan mìfāng heirloom secret recipe for food or herbal medicine) are jealously guarded from being leaked to outsiders. Granted that it’s still not likely for a restaurant to hand you the recipe for your favorite dish, many “secret” tips are now freely shared on the Internet.

秘史 (mìshǐ) means secret history or an inside story. Many Chinese movies and TV serials are based on the unofficial history of ancient Chinese dynasties.

秘书 (mìshū) is a secretary, an assistant designated to handle confidential matters or documents.

奥秘 (àomì) is profound mystery. (ào) stands for 深奥 (shēnào profound or esoteric).

神秘 (shénmì) means mysterious or mystical.

诡秘 (guǐmì) means secretive and clandestine.

隐秘 (yǐnmì) is a deep secret.

秘密 (mìmì) can also be used as an adverb, as shown below.

Tāmen mìmì de dìng le hūn.
They got engaged secretly.

You could also say:

Tāmen tōutōu de dìng le hūn.
They got engaged in secret.

机密 (jīmì) is classified or confidential information.

Wǒmén bù kěyǐ xièlòu gōngsī de jīmì.
We should not leak our company’s confidential information.

密件 (mìjiàn) is classified material or a confidential document.

密码 (mìmǎ) is a secret code. 解密 (jiě mì) means to decode.

密约 (mìyuē) is a secret agreement or treaty.

密告 (mìgào) is to inform on someone secretly. 告密 (gàomì) has the same meaning.

Tā chángcháng xiàng lǎobǎn gàomì.
He often goes to the boss to inform on others.

You could also say:

Tā chángcháng xiàng lǎobǎn dǎ xiǎo bàogào.
He often goes to the boss to inform on other employees.

保密 (bǎomì) is to keep a secret. So, before you tell someone a secret, you might want to get some assurance that it won’t be divulged to other people.

Nǐ yào bǎomì yō!
You must keep it a secret, OK? (Cross your heart!)

Qiānwàn bùyào gàosù biérén.
Under any circumstances don’t tell anyone else.

And we all know this is exactly how a secret gets spread around and become an open secret, or 公开的秘密 (gōngkāi de mìmì). In fact, to have a secret kept in strict confidence, you will need to start with yourself. If you cannot resist telling the secret to someone, how could you expect another person to keep it for you?

P.S. Recently notified me that my readers will see an occasional advertisement displayed on my blogs. I’ve been using the blog service for free, and it’s understandable that they would expect some quid pro quo besides the blogger’s helping them popularize the blogging platform. However, if you see any inappropriate material displayed in the advertisement block, please let me know so I may alert about it. (The bloggers won’t see these ads when they post or edit their blogs.) Thanks!


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. keithy
    Oct 06, 2013 @ 09:54:12

    You must keep it a secret, OK? (Cross your heart!)
    When I read your comment “cross your heart!”, I thought to myself – how appropriate. Both 秘 and 密 contain the character 必!


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