- a little bird whispered in my ear
- a little birdie told me
- and many other minor variations
The phrase has a somewhat contentious origin: some attribute it to Ecclesiastes
10:20 "for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter", while others believe that it originates from the Dutch saying Er lif t'el baerd
"I should betray another." A third explanation is a simple allusion to carrier pigeon
s or other such messenger birds.
- Of information which was gathered from a source not to be overtly exposed.
- Let's just say I know because a little bird told me.
This phrase is often used more comically than seriously, especially when the source of the information is obvious to both parties but neither is willing to say.