Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French secré, secret, from Latin secretus, from past participle of secernere to separate, distinguish, from se- apart + cernere to sift — more at secede, certain
Date: 14th century
a. kept from knowledge or view ; hidden
b. marked by the habit of discretion ; closemouthed
c. working with hidden aims or methods ; undercover <a secret agent> d. not acknowledged ; unavowed <a secret bride> e. conducted in secret <a secret trial> 2. remote from human frequentation or notice ; secluded 3. revealed only to the initiated ; esoteric 4. designed to elude observation or detection <a secret panel> 5. containing information whose unauthorized disclosure could endanger national security — compare confidential, top secret • secretly adverb Synonyms: secret, covert, stealthy, furtive, clandestine, surreptitious, underhanded mean done without attracting observation. secret implies concealment on any grounds for any motive <met at a secret location>. covert stresses the fact of not being open or declared <covert intelligence operations>. stealthy suggests taking pains to avoid being seen or heard especially in some misdoing <the stealthy step of a burglar>. furtive implies a sly or cautious stealthiness <lovers exchanging furtive glances>. clandestine implies secrecy usually for an evil, illicit, or unauthorized purpose and often emphasizes the fear of being discovered <a clandestine meeting of conspirators>. surreptitious applies to action or behavior done secretly often with skillful avoidance of detection and in violation of custom, law, or authority <the surreptitious stockpiling of weapons>. underhanded stresses fraud or deception <an underhanded trick>. II. noun Date: 14th century 1. a. something kept hidden or unexplained ; mystery b. something kept from the knowledge of others or shared only confidentially with a few c. a method, formula, or process used in an art or operation and divulged only to those of one's own company or craft ; trade secret d. plural the practices or knowledge making up the shared discipline or culture of an esoteric society 2. a prayer traditionally said inaudibly by the celebrant just before the preface of the mass 3. something taken to be a specific or key to a desired end <the secret of longevity>
New Collegiate Dictionary. 2001.