Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Characterized by stealth; surreptitious.
  • adj. Expressive of hidden motives or purposes; shifty. See Synonyms at secret.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. stealthy
  • adj. Exhibiting guilty or evasive secrecy.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Stolen; obtained or characterized by stealth; sly; secret; stealthy.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Stolen; obtained by theft.
  • Stealthy; thief-like.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. marked by quiet and caution and secrecy; taking pains to avoid being observed
  • adj. secret and sly or sordid

Etymologies

French furtif, from Old French, from Latin fūrtīvus, from fūrtum, theft, from fūr, thief; see bher-1 in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From French furtif ("stealthy"), From Latin fūrtīvus ("stolen"), from fūrtum ("theft"), from fūr ("thief"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • She must have heard my steps on the wood stairs, because by the time I walked through the door, she was sitting on the floor near the bed, looking at me with an expression of furtive innocence.

    Red Flags or Red Herrings?

  • Every now and then, a sister slid grey and furtive from the side gate to hand over coins to buy not acarajé but a pink-and-white striped bag bulging with peeled chunks of sugar cane.

    BRASIL AS A GIRL

  • Re-search Department at the Foreign Office, and engaged in furtive adulteries.

    The saint of common decency

  • While the relationship was private, it can hardly be called furtive or clandestine.

    Jefferson's Concubine

  • He bristled now, recalling their furtive trysts in the woods.

    Covenant

  • In the light of after events, well did Slavin and Yorke recall the furtive appealing glance the hobo threw at Gully; well did they also remember certain of Kilbride's words: "There'll be quite a lot of things crop up in our minds that we'll be wondering we never thought of before."

    The Luck of the Mounted A Tale of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police

  • I may say that I was quite startled by his manner which I can only describe as furtive and uneasy.

    Death of a Peer

  • If we see this kind of furtive activity in our midst, we are going to be the one pulling guns out of holsters.

    Yuna Shin: "Ground Zero Mosque:" Politics of Fear and Persecution Assail American Character

  • New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly sent many scrambling when he used "furtive" — meaning "done by stealth," derived from furs, the Latin word for thief — to describe how the Times Square bomber looked in surveillance footage.

    Our 'Pragmatic,' 'Ebullient' Year of 'Austerity'

  • Bush tortured animals when he was a child, and now he tortures human beings with the same kind of furtive, sniggering, naughty glee.

    It is only propaganda--

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