a little bird told me

Rate this phrase:(4.00 / 3 votes)
Of information which was gathered from a source not to be overtly exposed.

Etymology:

  • The phrase has a somewhat contentious origin: some attribute it to Ecclesiastes 10:20 "Do not revile the king even in your thoughts, or curse the rich in your bedroom, because a bird in the sky may carry your words, and a bird on the wing may report what you say." Another explanation is a simple allusion to carrier pigeons or other such messenger birds.
  • John Heywood's Proverbs gives an earlier expression "I hear by one bird that in mine ear was late chanting", and characterizes "a little bird told me" as the 'modern' version.
  • In a Norse legend, Sigurd slew the dragon Fafnir and got a bit of dragon's blood on his tongue when he was roasting its heart. This immediately made it possible for Sigurd to understand what the birds were saying, and what they were saying was a warning that Regin would not keep his word, but instead planned to kill Sigurd. This was borrowed by Richard Wagner's Siegfried, in which the main character comes to understand that the song of a small bird instructs him to steal a ring and helmet.
  • It also may have come from an 1843 Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale entitled "The Nightingale". In the story, a small nightingale is put into the palace of an emperor for his amazing voice. When the emperor receives a bejeweled mechanical nightingale, everyone prefers it, because it is known what the mechanical bird will sing, while the real nightingale sings whatever comes into its head. As a result, the real bird is banished from the palace. One night, while the mechanical bird is singing the emperor to sleep, something in it breaks. He takes it to a watchmaker, who says that the cogs are worn down from too frequent use, so the emperor only plays it once a year. Unfortunately, the emperor soon falls deathly ill. He sees Death sitting on his bed, holding the emperor's crown, sword, and banner. Just then, the little nightingale flutters through the open window, and begins to sing. The song pleases Death so much that he agrees to leave the emperor to hear another. The nightingale sings again, and the emperor is cured. The emperor asks the nightingale how he can repay him. The nightingale says that he will gladly sing to the emperor of everything that is happening, far beyond the reach of his palace, but warns him, "You must not let anyone know that you have a little bird who tells you everything; then all will go even better."
149 Views

Let's just say I know because a little bird told me.

Submitted on September 01, 2009

Translation

Find a translation for the a little bird told me phrase in other languages:

ஒரு சிறிய பறவை என்னிடம் கூறினார்

Select another language:

  • - Select -
  • 简体中文 (Chinese - Simplified)
  • 繁體中文 (Chinese - Traditional)
  • Español (Spanish)
  • Esperanto (Esperanto)
  • 日本語 (Japanese)
  • Português (Portuguese)
  • Deutsch (German)
  • العربية (Arabic)
  • Français (French)
  • Русский (Russian)
  • ಕನ್ನಡ (Kannada)
  • 한국어 (Korean)
  • עברית (Hebrew)
  • Українська (Ukrainian)
  • اردو (Urdu)
  • Magyar (Hungarian)
  • मानक हिन्दी (Hindi)
  • Indonesia (Indonesian)
  • Italiano (Italian)
  • தமிழ் (Tamil)
  • Türkçe (Turkish)
  • తెలుగు (Telugu)
  • ภาษาไทย (Thai)
  • Tiếng Việt (Vietnamese)
  • Čeština (Czech)
  • Polski (Polish)
  • Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian)
  • Românește (Romanian)
  • Nederlands (Dutch)
  • Ελληνικά (Greek)
  • Latinum (Latin)
  • Svenska (Swedish)
  • Dansk (Danish)
  • Suomi (Finnish)
  • فارسی (Persian)
  • ייִדיש (Yiddish)
  • հայերեն (Armenian)
  • Norsk (Norwegian)
  • English (English)

Nearby phrases

Some more phrases from our dictionary similar to a little bird told me

How to pronounce this phrase?

  1. Alex
    Alex
    US English
    Daniel
    Daniel
    British
    Karen
    Karen
    Australian
    Veena
    Veena
    Indian

Discuss this a little bird told me phrase with the community:

Citation

Use the citation below to add this a little bird told me definition to your bibliography:

Style:MLAChicagoAPA

"a little bird told me." Phrases.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 11 Jul 2020. <https://www.phrases.com/phrase/a-little-bird-told-me_1854>.

We need you!

Help us build the largest human-edited phrases collection on the web!

Thanks for your vote! We truly appreciate your support.