furtive

adjective
fur·​tive | \ˈfər-tiv \

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

Many try to hide their surprise, but their furtive glances say it all. Ron Lieber, New York Times, "5 High Schoolers and Their College Application Essays About Work, Money and Social Class," 11 May 2018 As Pai spoke, there was furtive commotion in the back of the room. Andrew Rice, WIRED, "This Is Ajit Pai, Nemesis of Net Neutrality," 16 May 2018 There were other similarities between the two visits, including Kim Jong-un’s furtive, unannounced arrival aboard an armored train, which was first spotted at North Korea’s border with China near the city of Dandong. Steven Lee Myers And Jane Perlez, New York Times, "Kim Jong-un Met With Xi Jinping in Secret Beijing Visit," 27 Mar. 2018 Her nomination was, at times, mired in controversy because of certain parts of her furtive career. Byron Tau, WSJ, "CIA Nominee Wins Panel Endorsement, Clearing Way for Confirmation," 16 May 2018 Yanukovych called for closer ties with Russia while obscuring the depth of his own furtive Russian connections. Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, "Will Trump Be Meeting With His Counterpart — Or His Handler?," 8 July 2018 Meghan attended the event last year, an appearance which, at the time, helped to solidify the seriousness of the coupling (there was a furtive kiss in a parking area afterward!). Josh Duboff, Vanities, "Meghan Markle Aces Her First Polo Weekend as a Duchess," 2 July 2018 My aunt Victoria arrives at my door within days looking furtive and flustered. Mary Horlock, Longreads, "The Camouflage Artist: Two Worlds Wars, Two Loves, and One Great Deception," 21 June 2018 Makkai smiles and takes a furtive glance at the clock. Christopher Borrelli, chicagotribune.com, "Rebecca Makkai, author of Chicago-set 'The Great Believers,' knows the value of diligence," 20 June 2018

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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Dictionary Entries near furtive

further to

furthest

furthy

furtive

furtum

furtum usus

Furtwängler

Statistics for furtive

Last Updated

13 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for furtive

The first known use of furtive was in 1612

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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 \

Kids Definition of furtive

: done in a sneaky or sly manner a furtive look

Other Words from furtive

furtively adverb

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More from Merriam-Webster on furtive

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for furtive

Spanish Central: Translation of furtive

Nglish: Translation of furtive for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of furtive for Arabic Speakers

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