surreptitious

Synonym Chooser

How is the word surreptitious distinct from other similar adjectives?

Some common synonyms of surreptitious are clandestine, covert, furtive, secret, stealthy, and underhanded. While all these words mean "done without attracting observation," 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 would clandestine be a good substitute for surreptitious?

The synonyms clandestine and surreptitious are sometimes interchangeable, but clandestine implies secrecy usually for an evil, illicit, or unauthorized purpose and often emphasizes the fear of being discovered.

a clandestine meeting of conspirators

In what contexts can covert take the place of surreptitious?

While the synonyms covert and surreptitious are close in meaning, covert stresses the fact of not being open or declared.

covert intelligence operations

When might furtive be a better fit than surreptitious?

While in some cases nearly identical to surreptitious, furtive implies a sly or cautious stealthiness.

lovers exchanging furtive glances

Where would secret be a reasonable alternative to surreptitious?

The meanings of secret and surreptitious largely overlap; however, secret implies concealment on any grounds for any motive.

met at a secret location

When could stealthy be used to replace surreptitious?

The words stealthy and surreptitious are synonyms, but do differ in nuance. Specifically, stealthy suggests taking pains to avoid being seen or heard especially in some misdoing.

the stealthy step of a burglar

When is underhanded a more appropriate choice than surreptitious?

The words underhanded and surreptitious can be used in similar contexts, but underhanded stresses fraud or deception.

an underhanded trick

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Cite this Entry

“Surreptitious.” Merriam-Webster.com Thesaurus, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/surreptitious. Accessed 3 Feb. 2023.

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