adjective clan·des·tine \ klan-ˈdes-tən also -ˌtīn or -ˌtēn or ˈklan-dəs- \
|Updated on: 16 Aug 2018

Definition of clandestine

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






play \ˌklan-də-ˈsti-nə-tē, -des-ˈti-\ noun

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Examples of clandestine in a Sentence

  1. 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 SheehanA Bright Shining Lie1988
  2. 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 History1986
  3. 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 CarréA Perfect Spy1986
  4. I took a clandestine peek at the price tag on the diamond necklace.

Recent Examples of clandestine from the Web

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.

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."

Origin and Etymology of clandestine

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

Synonym Discussion of 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

CLANDESTINE Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of clandestine for English Language Learners

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

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very hard to disturb or upset

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