Definition of surreptitious in US English:



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

    ‘they carried on a surreptitious affair’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘He was quite sure it would be restored that afternoon, he said, with quiet emphasis and a surreptitious glance at his watch.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Thanks to e-mail, the modern workplace is a hive of covert communication and surreptitious sociability.’
    • ‘Under British and American law this surreptitious sale is illegal.’
    • ‘There appears to be an increasing amount of surveillance, much of it surreptitious.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘This, for anyone not in the know, is the surreptitious act of slapping size 10 labels on clothes that are really a 12.’
    • ‘After all, if there is no chocolate dessert on hand, it just might lead to surreptitious stealing of the children's chocolate eggs.’
    • ‘The stowing of the rubbish seemed surreptitious, even furtive, to a young and ignorant mind.’
    • ‘It is also surreptitious and insidious discrimination.’
    • ‘We don't need this surreptitious attempt at re-direction of our considerable traffic.’
    • ‘Very often staff feel that their colleagues have been silently and invisibly spirited out of the company in a surreptitious and clandestine manner.’
    • ‘A no-fly zone is reported to have been enforced so that paparazzi cannot take surreptitious snaps from helicopters.’
    • ‘He kept on pointing out that these people were all, in a very surreptitious way, propagandists for extreme conservative Catholicism.’
    • ‘A burning ember becomes a surreptitious reference to a tense nation teetering on collapse.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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
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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.