1 a : done in a quiet and secretive way to avoid being noticed : surreptitious
b : expressive of stealth : sly
2 : obtained underhandedly
Julia and I exchanged furtive glances across the room when Edward asked who had rearranged his CD collection.
"… I create a hidden fortress for the cake at the back of the fridge and by this I mean shove quinoa and brussels sprouts in front of it thus saving it for furtive late night snacking." — Sherry Kuehl, The Kansas City Star, 28 Dec. 2016
Did You Know?
Furtive has a shadowy history. It may have slipped into English directly from the Latin furtivus or it may have covered its tracks by arriving via the French furtif. We aren't even sure how long it has been a part of the English language. The earliest known written uses of furtive are from the early 1600s, but the derived furtively appears in written form as far back as 1490, suggesting that furtive may have been lurking about for a while. However furtive got into English, its root is the Latin fur, which is related to, and may come from, the Greek phōr (both words mean "thief"). When first used in English, furtive meant "done by stealth," and later also came to mean, less commonly, "stolen." Whichever meaning you choose, the elusive ancestry is particularly fitting, since a thief must be furtive to avoid getting caught in the act.
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Word Family Quiz
What animal's name is derived from Latin fur, meaning "thief," and is a verb meaning "to search about"?VIEW THE ANSWER