'Straight from the Horse's Mouth': Definition, Meaning, Examples

By Carly Forsaith, updated on November 17, 2023

If you've ever heard someone say they got something 'straight from the horse's mouth,' you might have wondered what they meant. After all, that's a bit of an odd thing to say. But don't worry, there's a good reason people say that: it's because it's an idea. In this article, you'll learn all about the meaning and origin of this famous saying, as well as how to use it in a sentence.

If you just want to know what it means and be on your merry way, here is the short version:

  • When information comes straight from the horse's mouth, it means it comes directly from the source instead of it being secondhand information.

What Does 'Straight from the Horse's Mouth' Mean?

The phrase 'straight from the horse's mouth' means getting information directly from the most reliable or authoritative source instead of it being secondhand, which is often unreliable. It implies that the information is firsthand, accurate, and trustworthy because it comes directly from the person or source with the most direct knowledge or involvement in the matter.

Imagine, for example, telling your colleague that the organization you work for is releasing a new product. They say they don't believe you because it's just rumors. You might say:

It was rumors to begin with, but this time I heard it straight from the horses' mouth; the CEO amnounced it this morning.

This is a perfect example of how idioms can't be interpreted literally. This one even seems a little absurd; surely, getting information firsthand doesn't have anything to do with a horse's mouth. That's right, it doesn't. But as we're about to find out, often idioms start out with a literal meaning, but this fades away over time.

Where Does 'Straight from the Horse's Mouth' Come From?

There are a couple of different theories about the origins of this idiom. The first one is related to horse racing.

Horse Racing

In the context of horse racing, the phrase was used to convey the idea that the most reliable information about a horse's condition, age, or performance capabilities could be obtained by getting it directly from the person who knew the horse best—typically the owner, trainer, or someone closely involved in the horse's care.

Therefore, people who wanted to place bets on horses would seek that information from trainers. But this theory doesn't entirely make sense to me because it still has nothing to do with a horse's mouth. So, let's take a look at the other approach.

Checking a Horse's Teeth

The other theory is likely a literal expression, reflecting the practice of examining a horse's teeth to determine its age and general health. Examining a horse's teeth was (and still is) a standard method for estimating its age, and those knowledgeable about horses could obtain accurate information by looking 'straight from the horse's mouth.'

Regardless of which one you believe, everyone agrees the expression has been around since the early 1900s. As with many idioms, the transition from oral tradition to written documentation can be challenging to trace precisely. The fact that it's found in written records from the early 20th century suggests it was already a known expression by then.

Examples in Sentences

Now that we've covered the meaning of this idiom and its origins, here are some example sentences that use it.

I heard about the new product release straight from the horse's mouth—our CEO announced it at the office this morning.

If you want accurate information about the project's progress, go talk to Sarah; she gets updates straight from the horse's mouth.

The journalist claimed to have information straight from the horse's mouth, quoting an anonymous insider in the company.

We know you're moving to another city because we got the information straight from the horse's mouth. Your parents told us.

The report wasn't a rumor; it came straight from the horse's mouth, as confirmed by the government spokesperson.

We got the scoop on the team's strategy straight from the horse's mouth when the coach shared it in the press conference last night.

To get the most accurate financial projections, investors often seek information straight from the horse's mouth—directly from the company's CFO.

I didn't believe it until I heard it straight from the horse's mouth—the project has been approved, and we're moving forward.

Avoid speculation and listen to the official announcement; it's always better to get information straight from the horse's mouth.

I wanted to know if the event was canceled, so I asked the organizer directly and got the answer straight from the horse's mouth.

Other Ways to Say 'Straight From the Horse's Mouth'

There are plenty of other ways to say you got information from the most reliable source. They're great to use if you're looking for alternative phrases.

The following two expressions are synonymous:

  • Straight from the source
  • Firsthand information

The following three aren't exactly synonymous, but they convey a similar meaning:

  • On good authority
  • From a reliable source
  • From the inside

And here is one that means the exact opposite:

  • I heard it on the grapevine.

This just means it's a rumor that's floating around and has not been verified.

Concluding Thoughts

That concludes this article about this popular idiom. To summarize, when someone says they heard it straight from the source, they mean they heard it from someone who has direct personal knowledge of it.

Are you ready to learn more English phrases and expand your vocabulary? Check out our idioms blog for idioms, expressions, sayings, and more!   

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Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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