Definition of secret in US English:



  • 1Not known or seen or not meant to be known or seen by others.

    ‘how did you guess I had a secret plan?’
    ‘the resupply effort was probably kept secret from Congress’
    • ‘They probably have secret meetings and plan world wars or something.’
    • ‘A few years ago, Michael Jackson planned a secret trip, making arrangements for as much privacy as possible.’
    • ‘Some conspiracy theorists believe the Priory of Sion to be one of the oldest and most powerful secret societies.’
    • ‘Keeping some detail more secret than another is certainly not uncommon in traditional Aboriginal religious affairs.’
    • ‘The Council shall vote by secret ballot in order to fill the vacancy expeditiously.’
    • ‘Could this be NASA's secret asteroid-destruction plan?’
    • ‘A secret organization were supposedly planning an act of terrorism.’
    • ‘I first want to take you on on this idea that they're publishing secret war plans.’
    • ‘The US is planning to introduce secret military tribunals which can impose the death penalty.’
    • ‘Even after the secret escape plan was revealed and all hell broke loose, the company held fast to its priorities.’
    • ‘The cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church are sealed into the Sistine Chapel for a very secret ballot.’
    • ‘But she does seem to enjoy keeping things so secret that nobody knows what the hell is going on.’
    • ‘Have the glitzy pair really called it quits, or are they planning a secret wedding?’
    • ‘I made it myself with the finest beans and a little secret ingredient of my own.’
    • ‘His secret plans for a new and unconventional way of life have only just emerged from the letters he wrote to friends.’
    • ‘Katelyn passed him and he turned around, smiling at Jude as they did their little secret handshake.’
    • ‘This was a secret visit planned with military precision.’
    • ‘Recruiters say that anonymity - the ability to keep clients' identities secret - is another valuable asset.’
    • ‘A BBC programme claimed to have conclusive evidence of plans for a secret motorway linking the M65, A65 and A1.’
    • ‘Keeping things secret is a phenomenal marketing tool.’
    confidential, strictly confidential, top secret, classified, restricted, unrevealed, undisclosed, unpublished, untold, unknown, uncommunicated, behind someone's back, under wraps, unofficial, off the record, not for circulation, not for publication, not to be made public, not to be disclosed
    hidden, concealed
    clandestine, covert, undercover, underground, hidden, shrouded, conspiratorial, surreptitious, stealthy, cloak-and-dagger, hole-and-corner, closet
    cryptic, encoded, coded, enciphered, hidden, mysterious, abstruse, recondite, arcane, esoteric, cabbalistic
    secluded, private, concealed, hidden, sheltered, undisturbed, unfrequented, solitary, lonely, sequestered, out of the way, remote, isolated, off the beaten track, tucked away, cut-off
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    1. 1.1attributive Not meant to be known as such by others.
      ‘a secret drinker’
      • ‘Angel has been getting emails from an unknown guy who claims is her secret admirer.’
      • ‘Or maybe it was just some sardonic concoction made by my real secret admirer!’
      • ‘"Really, so I was a super secret weapon, a super soldier.’
      • ‘We are the secret heroes of the world, the unknown saviors standing between all we know and love and the outer dark.’
      • ‘I'm a secret real ale drinker from time to time - could I be an English Democrat?’
      • ‘And once you start talking, they will repeat what you say, and soon you will have a reputation of a secret drinker.’
      • ‘Mr Hague reveals his history as a secret drinker in an interview published today in a glossy men's magazine.’
      clandestine, covert, undercover, underground, hidden, shrouded, conspiratorial, surreptitious, stealthy, cloak-and-dagger, hole-and-corner, closet
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    2. 1.2 Fond of or good at keeping things about oneself unknown.
      ‘he can be the most secret man’
      uncommunicative, secretive, unforthcoming, reticent, private, media-shy, taciturn, silent, non-communicative, quiet, tight-lipped, close-mouthed, close, playing one's cards close to one's chest, clamlike, reserved, introvert, introverted, self-contained, discreet
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    3. 1.3US (of information or documents) given the security classification above confidential and below top secret.
      • ‘In an interview with the magazine Der Spiegel, he compared journalists who were in the possession of secret documents with receivers of stolen goods.’
      • ‘There were some more probes and the inquiries into memos and maybe a leak and I think secret documents.’
      • ‘Some 61 countries have passed laws giving citizens the right to examine government records and other previously secret information.’
      • ‘In addition, prisoners and secret documents were captured.’
      • ‘There is no indication Franklin had access to secret information about technology, communications codes or US covert operations.’
      • ‘But an investigation into whether he stole secret documents is raising questions about timing and dirty politics.’
      • ‘This is what chancellor Anthony Barber told the Tory government in the autumn of 1973, according to secret documents made public on New Year's Day.’
      • ‘They were secret documents which indicated and gave information about our involvement in Korea and North Vietnam, in both those wars.’
      • ‘Morse managed to get hypnotised secretaries to steal secret documents.’
      • ‘A secret memo from the prime minister was leaked to Rupert Murdoch's newspapers last week revealing just how in thrall Blair is to the right wing.’
      • ‘In addition, he is accused of illegally possessing secret documents on military movements in and out of Guant?’
      • ‘Under the Official Secrets Act, the prosecution has only to prove that Gun passed secret information to an unauthorised person.’
      • ‘Detention can be based on secret evidence - which the detainee and their counsel cannot see, hear, or challenge.’
      • ‘The compromise of classified secret information onto unclassified systems and networks is a growing problem in the DON.’
      • ‘The issue is whether they should be free to do so with Imutran's confidential and secret documents.’
      • ‘Fortunately for all concerned, the document had been overly classified and did not contain secret information.’
      • ‘Devaivre, who dominates most of the second half of the film, accidentally stumbles on a trove of German secret documents and photographs them.’
      • ‘A fortnight before the crash the Foreign Office issued a secret memo banning all diplomatic staff from travelling with the airline.’
      • ‘It is hardly surprising that once the existence of the order leaked out, suspicions arose that the documents contained secret information not revealed at the Inquiry.’


  • 1Something that is kept or meant to be kept unknown or unseen by others.

    ‘a state secret’
    ‘at first I tried to keep it a secret from my wife’
    • ‘The Soviets kept this fact a secret for many years after the flight.’
    • ‘When the girls discover his dirty little secret, they give him a taste of his own medicine.’
    • ‘In England the home secretary is insisting that much government information will remain a state secret for 30 years.’
    • ‘He had succeeded in the balancing act of keeping secrets and informing the public.’
    • ‘Our families knew about it in advance and somehow managed to keep it a secret from me.’
    • ‘He would do everything in his power to make sure the family secret was not discovered.’
    • ‘They've been trying to keep that a secret from the public.’
    • ‘But they're going to have to keep it a secret from everybody else…’
    • ‘You had to keep your dirty little secret.’
    • ‘Though a woman full grown, she still needed a reminder on the evils of keeping secrets from her parents.’
    • ‘Nerve gas was one of Hitler's darkest, best-kept secrets.’
    • ‘And Jim liked to think he still had a few secrets up his sleeve.’
    • ‘Her true identity is a secret from her new friends and workmates.’
    • ‘In truth, how she died was unknown, a secret that remained with her family.’
    • ‘It also relates to hidden and unknown matters, secrets and private enemies.’
    • ‘One by one, Khmer Rouge leaders are taking their secrets to their graves.’
    • ‘Los Alamos National Laboratory is where the nation's nuclear secrets are kept and now, it appears, lost.’
    • ‘As confrontations ensue, a shameful family secret is revealed that will change their lives for ever.’
    • ‘She tried to pretend she was revealing a dearly kept secret.’
    • ‘Hackers can leak trade secrets stolen from unprotected networks.’
    confidential matter, confidence, private affair, skeleton in the cupboard
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    1. 1.1 Something that is not properly understood; a mystery.
      ‘I'm not trying to explain the secrets of the universe in this book’
      • ‘I can't explore the country's culture properly and learn its secrets.’
      • ‘There are no mysteries and secrets that cannot be learned by persons of average intelligence.’
      • ‘Tour the grounds and uncover the mysteries and secrets of its plant life.’
      • ‘Join the team for a gardening adventure and discover different mysteries and secrets about all things botanical.’
      • ‘So the secret of the mysterious phone calls is solved… a little.’
      • ‘The secrets of The Mysterious Bog People are unravelled in a new exhibition.’
      • ‘This house is history personified with all its grandeur, mysteries and unravelled secrets.’
      • ‘Blavatksy may have understood the secret of the divine essence, but I don't think she understood the nature of hypnosis or mesmerism.’
      • ‘In him, we find the secret of our own mysterious origins and the path of return to the Father's house.’
      • ‘What drives the attention of an audience is the unforeseeable, and the secrets and the mystery of a performance.’
      • ‘It brings to mind starry-eyed visions of Julius Cohen, paleontologist, plumbing the secrets of the unknown.’
      • ‘Despite its utopian ideals, this specter hides a deep dark secret.’
      • ‘To explore how you create some of your troubles would bring you uncomfortably close to your unknown inner secrets.’
      • ‘In that discipline he thought he had found the key to the secrets of the universe.’
      • ‘Their goal is to discover the secrets behind the mysterious tower that Union has built on the northern island of Hokkaido.’
      • ‘Like JFK and the O.J. Simpson case, the world needs its share of secrets and mysteries.’
      • ‘Scientists are working to unlock the secrets hidden in our genome.’
      • ‘So I now appeal to know, to unlock the secret of this mystery delicacy.’
      • ‘In Asia today these drums are often associated with Indus Valley script, its secrets remaining a mystery.’
      • ‘What's the secret behind these mysterious collapsing atoms?’
      mystery, enigma, problem, paradox, puzzle, conundrum, poser, riddle, question, question mark
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    2. 1.2 A valid but not commonly known or recognized method of achieving or maintaining something.
      ‘the secret of a happy marriage is compromise’
      • ‘The secret to achieving your dreams is to do something every day that moves you closer to those dreams.’
      • ‘Kit believes the secret to longevity is a healthy lifestyle.’
      • ‘Daily exercise and a strict diet are the common secrets of staying young.’
      • ‘What would you tell a baby band these days is the secret to longevity?’
      • ‘The secret to achieving and maintaining healthy, young looking skin is balance in your life and skin care routine.’
      • ‘Maybe this strange talisman contained his secret to the mysteries of life.’
      • ‘She maintains the secret of her long life is that she's never drank or smoked.’
      • ‘A star student revealed to me the secret to doing this properly.’
      • ‘So what is the secret to achieving a truly green envelope?’
      • ‘The secret to Field's method is that his demos are very small, requiring small amounts of material, energy, or money.’
      • ‘The secret to achieving your goals is mapping out a realistic plan to attainment, with measured success.’
      • ‘The secret to his success seemed to be less raw talent than hard work.’
      • ‘The secret is understanding the key issues and making decisions about how to act on them.’
      • ‘The secret to maintaining this balance over the long haul is to avoid letting moderation turn into monotony.’
      • ‘The secret to understanding Davies - one of the greatest female golfers to grace the game - is to understand this statement.’
      • ‘Their secret is the Taguchi Method, which is a technique for designing experiments that converge on an ideal product solution.’
      • ‘The secret, La Collins maintains, to her youthful flush is nothing other than petroleum jelly and water.’
      • ‘The secret to achieving excellence is taking advantage of opportunities.’
      • ‘You'll hear how these top companies built their business and learn the insider secrets to their success.’
      • ‘The secret is in recognizing that major change is inevitable.’
      recipe, formula, blueprint, magic formula, key, answer, solution
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    3. 1.3 Formerly, the name of a prayer said by the priest in a low voice after the offertory in a Roman Catholic Mass.


  • be in on the secret

    • Be among the few people who know something.

      • ‘I love knowing how it all works, being in on the secret.’
      • ‘I've also talked to a whole lot of people who one way or another were in on the secret.’
      • ‘‘This idea of 420 being a ‘secret code’ is kind of funny, when you think that a third of the population is in on the secret.’
      • ‘The gig had been arranged in total secrecy and only her husband was in on the secret.’
      • ‘It follows further that Alexander is in on the secret.’
      • ‘His wife, Lynne, and children Craig and Rachel were in on the secret and helped to plan and organise the tribute.’
      • ‘How could one be in the secret and not take part (take a determinant part), in its structure?’
      • ‘Ben must have been in on the secret too, because he refused to take off his clothes.’
      • ‘Then he smiles showing that he, too, is in on the secret.’
      • ‘And the light and curtain crews both appeared to be in on the secret.’
  • in secret

    • Without others knowing.

      • ‘There's also a guest appearance by the heartthrob singer whom she married in secret last June.’
      • ‘But the one was kept away from key witnesses, the other meets in secret and reports only to the prime minister.’
      • ‘There is nothing in the order that requires that these proceedings occur in secret.’
      • ‘But the most interesting evidence of the day may have been held in secret.’
      • ‘In typically British style, the deliberations were conducted in secret.’
      • ‘He took them quickly and in secret, hiding the camera under a long, shabby overcoat.’
      • ‘Is it acceptable that MPs should have the privilege of voting in secret?’
      • ‘Old forms of government have every reason to operate in secret, while denying just that privilege to subjects.’
      • ‘This deal was done entirely in secret, allegedly to prevent skyrocketing of land prices in the area.’
      • ‘The man presumed to be Richard was buried in secret at a monastery in Hertfordshire and his remains moved to Westminster.’
      secretly, without anyone knowing, in private, privately, in confidence, confidentially, behind closed doors, behind the scenes, behind someone's back, under cover, under the counter, discreetly, unobserved, quietly, furtively, stealthily, on the sly, on the quiet, privily, conspiratorially, covertly, clandestinely, on the side
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  • make no secret of something

    • Make something perfectly clear.

      • ‘But the important thing is that it was disclosed in the media in August of 1998 and he made no secret of it.’
      • ‘The odd thing is that the administration, while making no secret of its disapproval, has launched no specific crackdown against strip clubs’
      • ‘The president has been making no secret of his profound concern over the regional situation.’
      • ‘Woodhill makes no secret of his desire to bring in new leadership to build a larger, more influential organization.’
      • ‘Lloyds has made no secret of the fact that it wishes to steer clear of the volatile returns of investment banking.’
      • ‘It strikes me that if I'm looking to make a fortune overnight - and I make no secret of it, I am - then poker may be the answer.’
      • ‘The left makes no secret of its intentions where the Constitution is concerned.’
      • ‘They come at the question with an agenda and make no secret of it.’
      • ‘In the case that's true, then you've got to remember that he despises the Bush administration and made no secret of it.’
      • ‘He's quite proud of that stance and makes no secret of it.’


Late Middle English: from Old French, from Latin secretus (adjective) ‘separate, set apart’, from the verb secernere, from se- ‘apart’ + cernere ‘sift’.