Definition of on the sly in US English:

on the sly


  • In a secretive fashion.

    ‘she was drinking on the sly’
    • ‘The king's wife finds out his secret, and on the sly sends for the two children in the king's name.’
    • ‘And there still is such a thing as scavenging on the sly - sneaking into dumpsters for the great find.’
    • ‘Cyclists take tows on the sly, grab drinks and food from them, and are paced back to the pack by them.’
    • ‘Still, it didn't stop youngsters from smuggling comic books among their school texts, and reading them on the sly, sometimes in class where the subject was boring, or when the teacher was an uninspiring type.’
    • ‘Unfortunately, the train to my conference left at 4 AM after a night spent trying to acquire a travel visa on the sly, which meant drinking a lot of vodka.’
    • ‘In truth, most of those same execs were having the movies in question transferred to tape so they could watch them in their homes or offices, and those transfers were getting duped on the sly and traded for other movies.’
    • ‘During examination time, it is common to hear parental lamentations about children abandoning their books and watching TV on the sly, whenever the elders are not around to keep a watchful eye.’
    • ‘He said: ‘The people around here have not had a chance to say anything, it has been done completely on the sly.’’
    • ‘They couldn't, and there was no way they could force the towns with ‘superior’ state law or, well, bribe over half the town population on the sly.’
    • ‘Younger and wirier than his charge, talking a mile a minute and singing during his chores, he nonetheless shows a careworn, weary face, and he drinks on the sly.’
    in secret, secretly, furtively, stealthily, sneakily, slyly, surreptitiously, covertly, clandestinely, on the quiet, on the side, behind someone's back, under cover
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