Definition of furtive in English:



  • 1Attempting to avoid notice or attention, typically because of guilt or a belief that discovery would lead to trouble; secretive.

    ‘they spent a furtive day together’
    ‘he stole a furtive glance at her’
    • ‘She cast a furtive glance over her shoulder and caught a glimpse of Alex's dejected and sullen expression.’
    • ‘Taking a furtive glance around for his father, Joe considered his next move.’
    • ‘When their meal arrived, he forgot about them and did not notice the furtive glances the two reclusive men cast their way, although he glanced idly at them when they left the tavern.’
    • ‘While lord of the castle, he longs for useful work such as he did at the forge, but even his furtive attempts to fix a castle lock are foiled.’
    • ‘I didn't miss the furtive glance he cast around to check if anyone was looking.’
    • ‘Micromounters are looked upon as some sort of secret society that does furtive things under microscopes for inexplicable reasons.’
    • ‘There is something in a furtive glance of eyes on the subway, or from the passing crowd that does not tend to permanence.’
    • ‘He cast a furtive glance around the square and, seeing that his admirer had not yet gone away, bent over his boot again.’
    • ‘I could see that he took a couple of furtive glances at what I was doing, but he wasn't really watching.’
    • ‘We may as well have been poker players, there were so many furtive glances.’
    • ‘He cast furtive glances out of the corner of his eye, looking for Kathleen but couldn't seem to spot her.’
    • ‘And they do not want male waiters casting furtive looks and breathing down their necks.’
    • ‘I took a furtive look around, digested the unfamiliar surroundings, and backtracked.’
    • ‘Picking up his briefcase, he headed towards the police station, noticing a little more furtive activity today than usual.’
    • ‘For the philosopher Roland Barthes, the power of furtive photography stems from its ability to disclose part of its subject's subconscious.’
    • ‘Usually this would prompt me to snort: how about the homosexual church officials who preach this stuff in public while leading furtive double lives?’
    • ‘Someone else appears to be indulging in a furtive attempt to see what they can get away with.’
    • ‘For her part, Christine noticed the partially furtive glances, and it saddened her more than she would've cared to admit.’
    • ‘After a furtive glance toward his father, Jeremy answered it.’
    • ‘As over the wounds of hurt pride and battered citizenship do thousands of furtive conservatives ‘furiously blog’ (in Book's phrase).’
    secretive, secret, surreptitious
    sly, sneaky, wily, underhand, under the table
    clandestine, hidden, covert, cloaked, conspiratorial, underground, cloak and dagger, hole and corner, hugger-mugger
    stealthy, sneaking, skulking, slinking
    sidelong, sideways, oblique, indirect
    hush-hush, shifty
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1Suggestive of guilty nervousness.
      ‘the look in his eyes became furtive’
      • ‘It's almost unbearably tempting to suggest a furtive flick on the nose.’
      • ‘From the positions of the heads and eyes, do they look honest and straightforward, shy, or furtive and untrustworthy?’
      • ‘The two exchanged furtive glances in slight panic at this last comment.’
      • ‘Arnold, even as he issues obligatory denials, is, unlike Bill, neither furtive nor guilty.’
      • ‘Instead it's a candid admission he once lived the furtive lifestyle of a sinister international beer villain.’
      • ‘There was a sudden wave of tittering from my daughter's classmates and furtive looks.’
      • ‘The word furtive might have been invented to describe his dodgy demeanour.’
      • ‘The look the officer had given Ian had been furtive, almost guilty, and Ian sensed disapproval in the man's silence.’
      • ‘There was nothing furtive or nervous about him - it was as if he was perfectly entitled to be there.’
      • ‘But his gaze was not nervous or furtive but controlling, establishing a zone that she was not to enter.’
      • ‘The ferocious snarl of the Tyrannosaurus Rex has been replaced by a furtive shameful glance.’
      • ‘He casts a furtive, almost embarrassed glance around the nearby area.’


Early 17th century: from French furtif, -ive or Latin furtivus, from furtum theft.