Are you chatting away with a friend about something someone told you earlier? That person might suddenly approach you, and they’ll you that “loose lips sink ships.” What do they mean? Do they think you’re a sailor in your spare time or something?
This post unpacks everything you need to know about the meaning, origin, and use of this expression.
If someone walks up to you and tells you that “loose lips sink ships,” they’re telling you to stop talking because you’re giving away information to a third party that you should keep secret. The phrase applies to social and professional settings.
The “ships” in the phrase refer to plans, your reputation, or anything you’re trying to keep secret in your life. The “loose lips” in the saying means that the person is talking about secrets they may or may not know they should be keeping to themselves.
If someone tells you that “loose lips sink ships,” they are asking you to keep the information to yourself. You can use the phrase when talking to people you know at work or in your social circle.
For instance, if someone tells you something personal, and they want you to keep it secret, they could stress the importance of you keeping it confidential by saying, “loose lips sink ships.”
“I walked into work, and Jack was telling Tracey about how we all took last Saturday off early. I told him that loose lips sink ships, and Tracey is likely to tell the boss.”
“Don’t tell anyone. Loose lips sink ships, and if she finds out, we’re all going to be in a world of trouble.”
“Keep it to yourself, remember, loose lips sink ships.”
“Why is Dee over there telling someone she barely knows all our secrets? Doesn’t she realize loose lips sink ships?”
“We all have to make a pact to never speak of this again. Loose lips sink ships, so keep it to yourself.”
Loose Lips Sink Ships Origin
The origin of the phrase “loose lips sink ships” comes from WWI and WWII. Sailors would often leave their ship after docking at a new port and wander into the local town to drink. As they got intoxicated, undercover agents, usually women employed by the enemy, would start to speak to the sailor about where they were going and routes planned by the armada.
The sailors would hand over the information as bragging rights, unaware that they were handing over vital information on military movements to the enemy. The infiltrators would sell the information to the opposing navy, allowing enemy armadas to plan surprise attacks that would sink the fleet.
Phrases Similar to Loose Lips Sink Ships
- Keep your mouth shut.
- Keep a secret.
- Don’t tell anyone.
Phrases Opposite to Loose Lips Sink Ships
- Sing it from the rooftops.
- Tell everyone.
What is the Correct Saying?
- Loose lips sink ships.
Ways People May Say Loose Lips Sink Ships Incorrectly
Some people may use the phrase to describe boating or shipping accidents. The term has nothing to do with ships or lips. It’s a way of telling someone to keep the secret or their affairs to themselves and stop spreading it around to people that don’t need to know about it.
Acceptable Ways to Phrase Loose Lips Sink Ships
You can use “loose lips sink ships” when you’re telling people to keep a secret. It’s a warning to them that they will unravel everything and bring in a possible adverse outcome if they start telling people confidential information. The phrase suits social and professional situations, and you probably hear it all the time.