plain·​clothes | \ ˈplān-ˈklō(t͟h)z How to pronounce plainclothes (audio) \

Definition of plainclothes

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: dressed in civilian clothes while on duty used especially of a police officer

plain clothes


Definition of plain clothes (Entry 2 of 2)

: civilian clothes : the dress of an ordinary citizen … he had brought in a stenographer, more cops, and an older man in plain clothes.— E. L. Doctorow used especially in describing the clothes of a police officer a detective in plain clothes

Examples of plainclothes in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

On that late Sunday evening, Ramos and del Angel watched as the soldiers surrounded the entrance to the shelter and questioned a plainclothes municipal officer stationed outside. Rafael Carranza, azcentral, "Migrant shelters in Mexico clash with National Guard over immigration enforcement," 30 Aug. 2019 The tabby, named Tigger, was seized from Rebecca Katz on Monday night at a home in Oceanside by plainclothes officers and returned to Julie and Russell Berman, according to her attorney. Janelle Griffith, NBC News, "Cat stolen by nanny is returned to owners who wanted to euthanize it," 14 Aug. 2019 The man, who identified himself as Yang Chunlin, was bundled away by plainclothes police. Eva Dou, WSJ, "China Puts Rights Lawyer on Trial for Subversion," 26 Dec. 2018 The officers had worked in plainclothes police squads with Sgt. Justin Fenton,, "Two more corrupt Baltimore Police Gun Trace Task Force officers to be sentenced Friday," 8 June 2018 And plainclothes officers, disguised in the distinctive yellow hardhats of the protestors, have been seen making surprise arrests after mixing in with crowds. Nikhil Sonnad, Quartz, "Hong Kong’s police are rolling out harsh new tactics against protestors," 11 Aug. 2019 Efforts by Times reporters to approach the camps, factories and other religious sites were repeatedly blocked by plainclothes security officials — often giving outlandish explanations. Chris Buckley, New York Times, "China Said It Closed Muslim Detention Camps. There’s Reason to Doubt That.," 9 Aug. 2019 Two plainclothes paramilitary police officers, including Cerciello Rega, responded to the scene. Lauren Hernández,, "Family of teen arrested in Rome officer’s fatal stabbing say public has ‘incomplete account’," 4 Aug. 2019 Police have said a meeting was set up between the teens and two plainclothes Carabinieri paramilitary officers to recover the bag. NBC News, "Italian says he was threatened by Americans accused of policeman's murder," 1 Aug. 2019

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


1856, in the meaning defined above


1822, in the meaning defined above

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Statistics for plainclothes

Last Updated

5 Sep 2019

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Time Traveler for plainclothes

The first known use of plainclothes was in 1822

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English Language Learners Definition of plainclothes

: dressed in ordinary clothes and not a uniform while on duty


plain·​clothes | \ ˈplān-ˈklōz, -ˈklōt͟hz How to pronounce plainclothes (audio) \

Legal Definition of plainclothes

: dressed in civilian clothes while on duty used especially of a police officer

More from Merriam-Webster on plainclothes

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with plainclothes

Spanish Central: Translation of plainclothes

Comments on plainclothes

What made you want to look up plainclothes? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to make a temporary encampment

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