furtive

adjective
fur·​tive | \ ˈfər-tiv How to pronounce furtive (audio) \

Definition of furtive

1a : done in a quiet and secretive way to avoid being noticed : surreptitious a furtive glance exchanged furtive smiles
b : expressive of stealth : sly had a furtive look about him
2 : obtained underhandedly : stolen furtive gains

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Other Words from furtive

furtively adverb
furtiveness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for 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

Did you know?

Furtive has a shadowy history. It may have slipped into English directly from Latin or it may have covered its tracks by arriving via French. (The French furtif derived from the Latin furtivus.) But however "furtive" got into English, the Latin word fur, meaning "thief," is at the root. "Fur" is related to, and may come from, the Greek phōr, which also means "thief." When first used in English in the early 17th century, "furtive" carried a meaning of "done in a way so as not to be seen," though later it also came to mean, less commonly, "stolen." Whichever meaning you choose, the elusive ancestry of "furtive" is particularly fitting, since a thief must be furtive to avoid getting caught in the act!

Examples of furtive in a Sentence

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 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 … 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 He cast a furtive glance in our direction. We exchanged furtive smiles across the table.
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Recent Examples on the Web Those who used cannabis in their youth and are discovering a wide range of new products, ways to consume it and a unique new buying experience (one that doesn’t involve furtive deals on street corners). Nancy A Shenker, Rolling Stone, 11 Oct. 2021 With others from his organization, the Memory Project, Mr. Schumaker arranged furtive transport for Roya and the others to a safe house in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad. New York Times, 24 Sep. 2021 Was this accidentally furtive photo- and video-taking turning me into a Facehole? Rachel Metz, CNN, 9 Sep. 2021 Silence and furtive glances fill the pair’s Zoom screen. Steff Yotka, Vogue, 10 Aug. 2021 For decades these treatments have often been shrouded in secrecy, with prospective patients sourcing cosmetic dermatologist referrals and anecdotes via whisper networks and furtive Google searches. Rory Satran, WSJ, 17 July 2021 Furthermore, freedom of navigation operations typically involve U.S. Navy ships making relatively short, furtive voyages into disputed territory simply to make the point before leaving. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, 13 July 2021 In Utah, where the furtive climate meeting occurred, a group of state Republican lawmakers this month called for polluters to pay a price for emitting carbon dioxide, the main heat-trapping gas. BostonGlobe.com, 23 June 2021 The rest of the planes flew a furtive L-shape before returning, not even circling the small island. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, 21 June 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'furtive.' 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 furtive

1612, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for 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

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Time Traveler for furtive

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The first known use of furtive was in 1612

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Dictionary Entries Near furtive

furthy

furtive

furtum

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Last Updated

14 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Furtive.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/furtive. Accessed 18 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for furtive

furtive

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of furtive

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

furtive

adjective
fur·​tive | \ ˈfər-tiv How to pronounce furtive (audio) \

Kids Definition of furtive

: done in a sneaky or sly manner a furtive look

Other Words from furtive

furtively adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on furtive

Nglish: Translation of furtive for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of furtive for Arabic Speakers

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