Simple Definition of furtive
: done in a quiet and secret way to avoid being noticed
Examples of furtive in a sentence
This means that they need use only quantum mechanics or only general relativity and can, with a furtive glance, shrug off the barking admonition of the other. —Brian Greene, The Elegant Universe, 1999
Fall's pleasures were furtive, risky, short-lived-buckeye fights, … the endless recipes for the apples Mrs. Railsbeck asked him to fetch from the cobwebbed crate in the basement. —Stewart O'Nan, The Names of the Dead, 1996
… it made Shepherd look furtive, wary, hunted—as if the photographer had shot him against his will, in the act of slamming the door. —Helen Garner, The First Stone, 1995
He cast a furtive glance in our direction.
We exchanged furtive smiles across the table.
Did You Know?
Furtive has a shadowy history. It may have slipped into English directly from Latin or it may have covered its tracks by arriving via French. (The French furtif derived from the Latin furtivus.) But however "furtive" got into English, the Latin word fur, meaning "thief," is at the root. "Fur" is related to, and may come from, the Greek phōr, which also means "thief." When first used in English in the early 17th century, "furtive" carried a meaning of "done in a way so as not to be seen," though later it also came to mean, less commonly, "stolen." Whichever meaning you choose, the elusive ancestry of "furtive" is particularly fitting, since a thief must be furtive to avoid getting caught in the act!
Origin of furtive
French or Latin; French furtif, from Latin furtivus, from furtum theft, from fur thief, from or akin to Greek phōr thief; akin to Greek pherein to carry — more at bear
First Known Use: 1612
Synonym Discussion of furtive
FURTIVE Defined for Kids
Definition of furtive for Students
: done in a sneaky or sly manner <a furtive look>
Seen and Heard
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