clan·​des·​tine | \ klan-ˈde-stən How to pronounce clandestine (audio) also -ˌstīn or -ˌstēn or ˈklan-də- \

Definition of clandestine

: marked by, held in, or conducted with secrecy : surreptitious a clandestine love affair

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Other Words from clandestine

clandestinely adverb
clandestineness noun
clandestinity \ ˌklan-​də-​ˈsti-​nə-​tē How to pronounce clandestine (audio) , -​de-​ˈsti-​ \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for clandestine

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

Did You Know?

In 1658, the English poet John Milton wrote of "clandestine Hostility cover'd over with the name of Peace." Three and a half centuries later we use clandestine in much the same way. The word is often used as a synonym of secret and covert, and it is commonly applied to actions that involve secrecy maintained for an evil, illicit, or unauthorized purpose. It comes to us by way of Middle French from Latin clandestinus, which is itself from clam, meaning "secretly."

Examples of clandestine in a Sentence

The clandestine meetings, the passing back and forth of messages between Lodge and the plotters, the coaxing along of the generals, all had the emotional lift of a strong amphetamine. — Neil Sheehan, A Bright Shining Lie, 1988 The CIA's great innovation has been to concentrate in peacetime on 'covert action'—that is, the use of clandestine means to challenge policies and regimes in other countries. — Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., The Cycles of American History, 1986 And Pym was in London for a conference—no, he wasn't, he was attending a three-day course on the latest methods of clandestine communication in a beastly little training house off Smith Square. — John le Carré, A Perfect Spy, 1986 I took a clandestine peek at the price tag on the diamond necklace.
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Recent Examples on the Web Using camera technology specially developed for the program, the show’s creators bring those normally clandestine hues to life for viewers to dazzling effect. Vanessa Lawrence, ELLE Decor, "Move Over Neutrals, Color Is Having a Moment," 4 May 2021 While infidelity is typically a clandestine enterprise, some cheaters were less careful than others, perhaps intentionally. Gary W. Lewandowski, Scientific American, "Why Do People in Relationships Cheat?," 4 May 2021 The group had grown since its clandestine days into a key force in Catalan culture. New York Times, "Criminal or Martyr? Prisoner Poses a Political Dilemma for Spain.," 4 May 2021 In 2014, the European Court of Human Rights found that Poland violated the European Convention on Human Rights by permitting the CIA to operate the clandestine interrogation facility on its territory. Jess Bravin, WSJ, "Supreme Court Will Hear Case Over Testimony on Guantanamo Detainee," 26 Apr. 2021 Until then, the fates of both fishermen and sharks remain a matter of clandestine migrations, unenforced regulations, and taut fishing line. Richard Pallardy, Smithsonian Magazine, "The Gulf of California May Be an Overlooked Home for Great White Sharks," 19 Apr. 2021 Israel all but claimed responsibility for the assassination in November of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, one of Iran’s top nuclear scientists, widely believed to be in charge of a clandestine Iranian weapons program until it was stopped in 2003. Scott Peterson, The Christian Science Monitor, "Why Iran nuclear talks are moving ahead, despite Israeli attack," 19 Apr. 2021 There is even a name for the clandestine cyber-bazaar: probiv. Washington Post, "Russia’s surveillance state still doesn’t match China. But Putin is racing to catch up.," 17 Apr. 2021 From clandestine trysts to political allegiances, jewelry has historically been one of the best secret keepers. Jill Newman, Town & Country, "How Royals from Queen Elizabeth I to Prince Charles Kept Secrets in Their Jewels," 2 Apr. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'clandestine.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of clandestine

circa 1528, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for clandestine

Middle French or Latin; Middle French clandestin, from Latin clandestinus, from clam secretly; akin to Latin celare to hide — more at hell

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Time Traveler for clandestine

Time Traveler

The first known use of clandestine was circa 1528

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Last Updated

10 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Clandestine.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 May. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of clandestine

formal : done in a private place or way : done secretly

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