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surreptitious

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

Simple Definition of surreptitious

  • : done in a secret way

Full Definition of surreptitious

  1. 1 :  done, made, or acquired by stealth :  clandestine

  2. 2 :  acting or doing something clandestinely :  stealthy <a surreptitious glance>

sur·rep·ti·tious·ly adverb

Examples of surreptitious

  1. 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

  2. In the early evening as we gathered in the lobby beneath mounted elk heads and bear skins, the lights of the chandelier flickered mysteriously. But the teacher and I both spied the surreptitious action of the desk clerk, whose sheepish smile acknowledged that one brief hotel mystery had been solved. Other signs of pranking there included a “ghost” photo (displayed in a lobby album) that the clerk confided to me was staged, and some pennies, placed on the back of a men's room toilet, that from time to time would secretly become rearranged to form messages—like the word “why?” that I encountered. —Joe Nickell, Skeptical Inquirer, September/October 2000

  3. The next week offered [FBI agent] Wiser the opportunity he had been waiting for. Ames was leaving the country, going to Ankara for a weeklong international conference on drugs. Wiser went to Bryant for permission to run a … surreptitious search of Ames' garbage. But the chief was dead set against it. —Tim Weiner et al., Rolling Stone, 29 June 1995

  4. She had a surreptitious relationship with her employee.

  5. <a private investigator adept at taking surreptitious pictures of adulterous couples>



Origin of surreptitious

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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