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Categorized as formulaic language , an idiom's figurative meaning is different from the literal meaning. It is estimated that there are at least twenty-five thousand idiomatic expressions in the English language. Many idiomatic expressions, in their original use, were not figurative but had literal meaning. Also, sometimes the attribution of a literal meaning can change as the phrase becomes disconnected from its original roots, leading to a folk etymology. For instance, spill the beans meaning to reveal a secret has been said to originate from an ancient method of democratic voting, wherein a voter would put a bean into one of several cups to indicate which candidate he wanted to cast his vote for. Over time, the practice was discontinued and the idiom became figurative.