Quantcast
Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Medical
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary

furtive

play
adjective fur·tive \ˈfər-tiv\

Simple Definition of furtive

  • : done in a quiet and secret way to avoid being noticed

Full Definition of furtive

  1. 1 a :  done by stealth :  surreptitious b :  expressive of stealth :  sly <had a furtive look about him>

  2. 2 :  obtained underhandedly :  stolen

fur·tive·ly adverb
fur·tive·ness noun

Examples of furtive

  1. 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

  2. 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

  3. … 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

  4. He cast a furtive glance in our direction.

  5. We exchanged furtive smiles across the table.



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

secret, covert, stealthy, furtive, clandestine, surreptitious, underhanded mean done without attracting observation. secret implies concealment on any grounds for any motive <met at a secret location>. covert stresses the fact of not being open or declared <covert intelligence operations>. stealthy suggests taking pains to avoid being seen or heard especially in some misdoing <the stealthy step of a burglar>. furtive implies a sly or cautious stealthiness <lovers exchanging furtive glances>. clandestine implies secrecy usually for an evil, illicit, or unauthorized purpose and often emphasizes the fear of being discovered <a clandestine meeting of conspirators>. surreptitious applies to action or behavior done secretly often with skillful avoidance of detection and in violation of custom, law, or authority <the surreptitious stockpiling of weapons>. underhanded stresses fraud or deception <an underhanded trick>.


Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up furtive? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

February 8, 2016

to clear from accusation or blame

Get Word of the Day daily email!

WORD GAMES

Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!

image1037863653

Which of the following refers to thin, bending ice, or to the act of running over such ice?

duvet spindrift pince-nez kittly-benders
Name That Thing

10 quick questions: hear them, spell them, and see how your skills compare to the crowd.

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ