furtive

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Synonym Chooser

How is the word furtive distinct from other similar adjectives?

Some common synonyms of furtive are clandestine, covert, secret, stealthy, surreptitious, and underhanded. While all these words mean "done without attracting observation," furtive implies a sly or cautious stealthiness.

lovers exchanging furtive glances

When would clandestine be a good substitute for furtive?

In some situations, the words clandestine and furtive are roughly equivalent. However, clandestine implies secrecy usually for an evil, illicit, or unauthorized purpose and often emphasizes the fear of being discovered.

a clandestine meeting of conspirators

When could covert be used to replace furtive?

The words covert and furtive can be used in similar contexts, but covert stresses the fact of not being open or declared.

covert intelligence operations

When is secret a more appropriate choice than furtive?

While in some cases nearly identical to furtive, secret implies concealment on any grounds for any motive.

met at a secret location

When can stealthy be used instead of furtive?

While the synonyms stealthy and furtive are close in meaning, stealthy suggests taking pains to avoid being seen or heard especially in some misdoing.

the stealthy step of a burglar

In what contexts can surreptitious take the place of furtive?

Although the words surreptitious and furtive have much in common, 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

When might underhanded be a better fit than furtive?

The words underhanded and furtive are synonyms, but do differ in nuance. Specifically, underhanded stresses fraud or deception.

an underhanded trick

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Cite this Entry

“Furtive.” Merriam-Webster.com Thesaurus, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/furtive. Accessed 27 Jan. 2023.

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