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un·​der·​hand·​ed ˌən-dər-ˈhan-dəd How to pronounce underhanded (audio)


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: marked by secrecy, chicanery, and deception : not honest and aboveboard : sly
an underhanded attempt to gain power
underhandedly adverb
underhandedness noun
Choose the Right Synonym for underhanded

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

Examples of underhanded in a Sentence

Adjective the commercial is a part of an underhanded PR campaign to whitewash the company's environmental record an underhanded attempt at infiltrating the other party's headquarters
Recent Examples on the Web
Kearney learns that underhanded deals with China are afoot, with many of her workers’ jobs on the line. Guy Lodge, Variety, 24 July 2023 An underhanded move by members of Italy’s right-wing government to try and take over the management of Rome’s Centro Sperimentale Film School is prompting an uproar by its students and a strong show of support from the country’s top directors. Nick Vivarelli, Variety, 28 July 2023 Biden’s announcement drew swift condemnation from state and southern Utah officials, who characterized the new monument as yet another example of federal overreach and underhanded dealing. Mark Eddington, The Salt Lake Tribune, 8 Aug. 2023 And what the city did was, was underhanded to try and [00:29:00] stop. Laura Johnston, cleveland, 12 July 2023 The people behind Issue 1, the underhanded move to reduce the power of the voter, were counting on the traditionally low turnout of August special elections to sneak this one through. Laura Johnston, cleveland, 18 July 2023 That’s what feels so underhanded and so embarrassing about it. Jordan Moreau, Variety, 2 Apr. 2023 Opponents derided it as underhanded, slipped through Congress by deceit rather than consensus. Kevin Rector, Anchorage Daily News, 19 June 2023 Pickleball supporters, while acknowledging the significance of the announcement, called it an underhanded attempt to stifle momentum behind a separate proposal to convert six of the 12 existing tennis courts at Point Loma’s Peninsula Tennis Club to pickleball. David Garrick, San Diego Union-Tribune, 17 June 2023 See More

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

Word History

First Known Use


circa 1822, in the meaning defined above


1853, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of underhanded was circa 1822

Dictionary Entries Near underhanded

Cite this Entry

“Underhanded.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/underhanded. Accessed 25 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


adjective or adverb
underhandedly adverb
underhandedness noun

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