se·​cre·​tive ˈsē-krə-tiv How to pronounce secretive (audio)
: disposed to secrecy : not open or outgoing in speech, activity, or purposes
secretively adverb
secretiveness noun
Choose the Right Synonym for secretive

silent, taciturn, reticent, reserved, secretive mean showing restraint in speaking.

silent implies a habit of saying no more than is needed.

the strong, silent type

taciturn implies a temperamental disinclination to speech and usually connotes unsociability.

taciturn villagers

reticent implies a reluctance to speak out or at length, especially about one's own affairs.

was reticent about his plans

reserved implies reticence and suggests the restraining influence of caution or formality in checking easy informal conversational exchange.

greetings were brief, formal, and reserved

secretive, too, implies reticence but usually carries a suggestion of deviousness and lack of frankness or of an often ostentatious will to conceal.

the secretive research and development division

Examples of secretive in a Sentence

He's very secretive about his work. the intelligence agency remained secretive despite the media's demands for more openness in government
Recent Examples on the Web In a letter last week, one of Chapman’s attorneys asked the governor’s office for an update on the petition, citing recent reporting from the Observer on the state’s slow and secretive pardon process. Ryan Oehrli, Charlotte Observer, 4 June 2024 Still, Fishkin and other experts feel Google is too secretive about how Search works. Laura Bratton, Quartz, 31 May 2024 Nadon can flip among many sides of herself — secretive, seductive, funny, serene. Gia Kourlas, New York Times, 29 May 2024 Because NDAs are secretive by their nature, public insight into their use and scope can be very limited. Jeanine Santucci, USA TODAY, 22 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for secretive 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'secretive.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


back-formation from secretiveness, partial translation of French secrétivité

First Known Use

1835, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of secretive was in 1835

Dictionary Entries Near secretive

Cite this Entry

“Secretive.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


se·​cre·​tive ˈsē-krət-iv How to pronounce secretive (audio)
: having a tendency toward secrecy and concealment : not frank or open
secretively adverb
secretiveness noun

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