clan·​des·​tine | \ klan-ˈde-stən How to pronounce clandestine (audio) also -ˌstīn or -ˌstēn or ˈklan-də- \

Essential Meaning of clandestine

formal : done in a private place or way : done secretly a clandestine [=secret] meeting a clandestine marriage the spy's clandestine [=covert] operation

Full Definition of clandestine

: marked by, held in, or conducted with secrecy : surreptitious a clandestine love affair

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Other Words from clandestine

clandestinely adverb
clandestineness noun
clandestinity \ ˌklan-​də-​ˈsti-​nə-​tē How to pronounce clandestine (audio) , -​de-​ˈsti-​ \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for clandestine

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

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In 1658, the English poet John Milton wrote of "clandestine Hostility cover'd over with the name of Peace." Three and a half centuries later we use clandestine in much the same way. The word is often used as a synonym of secret and covert, and it is commonly applied to actions that involve secrecy maintained for an evil, illicit, or unauthorized purpose. It comes to us by way of Middle French from Latin clandestinus, which is itself from clam, meaning "secretly."

Examples of clandestine in a Sentence

The clandestine meetings, the passing back and forth of messages between Lodge and the plotters, the coaxing along of the generals, all had the emotional lift of a strong amphetamine. — Neil Sheehan, A Bright Shining Lie, 1988 The CIA's great innovation has been to concentrate in peacetime on 'covert action'—that is, the use of clandestine means to challenge policies and regimes in other countries. — Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., The Cycles of American History, 1986 And Pym was in London for a conference—no, he wasn't, he was attending a three-day course on the latest methods of clandestine communication in a beastly little training house off Smith Square. — John le Carré, A Perfect Spy, 1986 I took a clandestine peek at the price tag on the diamond necklace.
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Recent Examples on the Web Whistleblower @Snowden privately met w/ a handful of press contacts in a clandestine location in Hong Kong under anonymity. Andy Meek, BGR, 6 Oct. 2021 Fleming remotely oversaw clandestine sabotage operations on mainland Europe and at one point flew to America and met with FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover. Clark Collis,, 19 Sep. 2021 With that diplomatic exodus came the rolling up of the clandestine network of restaurants, hotels and houses where an expat and a small subset of Afghans could enjoy beer or liquor in a country where alcohol was strictly verboten. Los Angeles Times, 24 Sep. 2021 At the same time, in the ‘70s, a clandestine world, a prohibition period, sisterhood became essential. Emilio Mayorga, Variety, 21 Sep. 2021 The quintet has been held at Guantanamo Bay since September 2006 after several years in clandestine CIA detention facilities following their capture. Audrey Conklin, Fox News, 11 Sep. 2021 When most of us think of marital infidelity, visions of clandestine liaisons in the bedroom come to mind. Kimberly Nelson, Forbes, 9 Sep. 2021 The drug can be easily made in small clandestine labs with inexpensive over-the-counter ingredients such as pseudoephedrine, commonly found in cold medication. Washington Post, 18 May 2021 But many women are too scared to reach out to those groups and opt to obtain clandestine abortions., 8 Sep. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'clandestine.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of clandestine

circa 1528, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for clandestine

Middle French or Latin; Middle French clandestin, from Latin clandestinus, from clam secretly; akin to Latin celare to hide — more at hell

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The first known use of clandestine was circa 1528

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Last Updated

13 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Clandestine.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Oct. 2021.

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