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adjective sur·rep·ti·tious \ˌsər-əp-ˈti-shəs, ˌsə-rəp-, sə-ˌrep-\

: done in a secret way

Full Definition of SURREPTITIOUS

:  done, made, or acquired by stealth :  clandestine
:  acting or doing something clandestinely :  stealthy <a surreptitious glance>
sur·rep·ti·tious·ly adverb


  1. She had a surreptitious relationship with her employee.
  2. <a private investigator adept at taking surreptitious pictures of adulterous couples>
  3. The letter didn't offer up the jewels, only shadowy suggestions about their disappearance, claiming that [heiress, Carolyn] Skelly, in a surreptitious trading of parcels with a man in an ankle-length tweed overcoat, had left a bag full of jewelry on the floor at J.F.K. —Mark Seal, Vanity Fair, December 2001


Middle English, from Latin surrepticius, from surreptus, past participle of surripere to snatch secretly, from sub- + rapere to seize — more at rapid
First Known Use: 15th century

Synonym Discussion of SURREPTITIOUS

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>.


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