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 officera detective in plain clothes

Examples of plainclothes in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Ostensibly made up of civilian supporters, the Dingbats, as the U.S. military called them, had a hard core of plainclothes members from the Panama Defense Forces. Washington Post, "A rotting cow tongue and ‘evil sorcery’: How the U.S. invasion of Panama led to a literal witch hunt," 23 Dec. 2019 But her plainclothes look wasn’t enough to thwart one eagle-eyed fan from spotting her in the flesh. Fox News, "Sia removes famous wig to buy groceries for holiday shoppers at Walmart: ‘The heart, beautiful soul you have’," 30 Nov. 2019 Videos from the protest purport to show plainclothes Basij officials and others on motorcycles beating and detaining protesters. Jon Gambrell, The Denver Post, "Iran says protesters attacked hundreds of banks, blaming U.S.," 27 Nov. 2019 Training sessions on specific skills were under-attended by women, with women accounting for 12% of those attending plainclothes training sessions and 7% of those at firearms training, according to the report. Anna Bauman,, "Women in SF police department face barriers in assignments, recognition," 16 Dec. 2019 Seals was on duty and in plainclothes Tuesday when he was shot by at least one of the suspects at Bayview Cemetery. Anthony Zurita, USA TODAY, "Suspects targeted kosher supermarket in Jersey City shooting rampage, mayor says," 11 Dec. 2019 The exception was that of a security guard who in 2015 was restrained and rendered unconscious by a plainclothes sheriff’s detective during a confrontation in Del Cerro. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Veteran DA’s investigator retires with long, successful record of clearing cases; but one case still nags him," 21 Oct. 2019 Get our daily newsletter But just before dawn on November 23rd plainclothes officers arrested one of its editors, Shady Zalat, at his flat in Cairo. The Economist, "The authorities in Egypt raid Mada Masr—and reveal their fears," 28 Nov. 2019 According to Mada Masr, four plainclothes security officers entered Zalat's apartment without presenting an arrest warrant and confiscated his and his wife's laptops and several work documents before detaining the journalist. Sarah El Sirgany, Sharif Paget And Ivana Kottasová, CNN, "Egypt raids one of its last independent news publications. Its news editor's whereabouts are unknown," 24 Nov. 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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Time Traveler for plainclothes

Time Traveler

The first known use of plainclothes was in 1822

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Statistics for plainclothes

Last Updated

10 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Plainclothes.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 24 January 2020.

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More Definitions for plainclothes


How to pronounce plain clothes (audio)

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).


a feeling of well-being or elation

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