Definition of surreptitious in English:



  • Kept secret, especially because it would not be approved of.

    ‘low wages were supplemented by surreptitious payments from tradesmen’
    • ‘Under British and American law this surreptitious sale is illegal.’
    • ‘A no-fly zone is reported to have been enforced so that paparazzi cannot take surreptitious snaps from helicopters.’
    • ‘They acted like some surreptitious athletics officials who could not wait to be the first to give the media a scoop and doubtless court future favour as a reward.’
    • ‘It is also surreptitious and insidious discrimination.’
    • ‘The 15 youngsters all pledged not to indulge in a surreptitious snack when they went home to bed after a video evening at the church, without the pop corn.’
    • ‘This, for anyone not in the know, is the surreptitious act of slapping size 10 labels on clothes that are really a 12.’
    • ‘She has been reflecting on the fact that it is ten years since she left school, and surreptitious elements of old school uniform have crept into her recent work.’
    • ‘Thanks to e-mail, the modern workplace is a hive of covert communication and surreptitious sociability.’
    • ‘We don't need this surreptitious attempt at re-direction of our considerable traffic.’
    • ‘A burning ember becomes a surreptitious reference to a tense nation teetering on collapse.’
    • ‘He was quite sure it would be restored that afternoon, he said, with quiet emphasis and a surreptitious glance at his watch.’
    • ‘He speaks loudly, and endearingly frankly, and occasionally steals a surreptitious glance over his shoulder to make sure the room is indeed empty.’
    • ‘Today during afternoon break I went for a surreptitious puff with two co-workers.’
    • ‘There appears to be an increasing amount of surveillance, much of it surreptitious.’
    • ‘After all, if there is no chocolate dessert on hand, it just might lead to surreptitious stealing of the children's chocolate eggs.’
    • ‘They're all meeting in the cafeteria to plot against Veronica, and the way you shot it, you get right away that it's surreptitious.’
    • ‘Very often staff feel that their colleagues have been silently and invisibly spirited out of the company in a surreptitious and clandestine manner.’
    • ‘He kept on pointing out that these people were all, in a very surreptitious way, propagandists for extreme conservative Catholicism.’
    • ‘The stowing of the rubbish seemed surreptitious, even furtive, to a young and ignorant mind.’
    • ‘Zara was casually fanning herself with her picture, but when she thought no one was watching stole long, slow, surreptitious looks at it.’
    secret, stealthy, clandestine, secretive, sneaky, sly, furtive, concealed, hidden, undercover, covert, veiled, under the table, cloak-and-dagger, backstair, indirect
    View synonyms


Late Middle English (in the sense ‘obtained by suppression of the truth’): from Latin surreptitius (from the verb surripere, from sub- ‘secretly’ + rapere ‘seize’) + -ous.