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

The operation, which involved plainclothes detectives doing surveillance on the street, was in response to numerous complaints about people dealing drugs out in the open in the Park Street area. Christine Dempsey,, "Eleven Arrested On Drug Charges In Hartford's Park Street Area, Police Say," 6 July 2018 Decker, of Cambridge, and Khan, of Newton, introduced the bill in response to a horrific case out of Brooklyn, N.Y. There, two plainclothes detectives were charged last fall with an attack on an 18-year-old., "Sometimes, a shield is needed from those wearing a badge," 28 Mar. 2018 The pair were investigating the deaths of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys in a village in Myanmar’s Rakhine state when they were detained by plainclothes police officers. Emily Stewart, Vox, "Time’s 2018 Person of the Year is Jamal Khashoggi and other “Guardians” of the truth," 11 Dec. 2018 More than 100 officers from counterterrorism and paramilitary units are protecting the South Jakarta District Court on Friday along with numerous plainclothes police. Fox News, "Indonesia boosts security for militant trial after attacks," 17 May 2018 Burley’s lawsuit traces misconduct allegations against city police plainclothes units to the 2006 flex squad controversy, which was followed by the disbanding of Special Enforcement Team units. Justin Fenton,, "Two men wrongfully imprisoned after fatal crash sue Baltimore Police; will seek $40 million in damages," 13 June 2018 Settlement: $3 million Amadou Diallo, New York, 1999 Mr. Diallo, a 22-year-old immigrant from Guinea, was killed by four plainclothes officers who fired a total of 41 bullets, 19 of which struck Mr. Diallo. Timothy Williams, New York Times, "$16 Million vs. $4: In Fatal Police Shootings, Payouts Vary Widely," 28 June 2018 Uniformed and plainclothes officers cited women for violating the Islamic dress code requiring them to cover their hair, according to the Kargari news channel, an opposition media outlet based outside the country. Author: Laura King, Kate Linthicum, Sabra Ayres, Anchorage Daily News, "Women’s Day marches worldwide bolstered by groundswell of #MeToo," 9 Mar. 2018 Four days later and barely 4 miles away in Bronzeville, police say Granton started running from plainclothes officers working a drug investigation. Paige Fry,, "Family bids farewell to man killed by Chicago police, waits for body-camera footage," 18 June 2018

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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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

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Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with plainclothes

Spanish Central: Translation of plainclothes

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