Word: clandestine

Pronunciation: klan-DES-tən / KLAN-des-tyn

Part of Speech: adjective

Definition: kept secret or done secretively, especially because illicit

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


While I’m on the subject of words I keep forgetting to add to my vocabulary list, here’s another Word of the Week that somehow kept getting pushed back in my memory before I finally dug it up last month. If I really tried, I could probably recall at least half a dozen instances when I heard or read this word somewhere and thought, “Oh yeah, I should make a note to blog about it,” only to forget again within the hour. Funny how words sometimes grow into their own definitions; it’s almost as if this secretive term is being purposely “clandestine” in my memory!

A “clandestine” act is one that’s done in secret, usually due to being illicit. The word arose in the mid 16th century and comes from the French adjective clandestin, which in turn derives from the Latin adjective clandestinus, meaning “secret” or “concealed”. This adjective stems from the adverb clam, which means “secretly”.

Sure enough, as its definition suggests, most instances in which I’ve read or heard the word “clandestine” were in the context of an illicit action (such as a meeting between parties who shouldn’t be seen together in public), though I’m fairly certain that needn’t always be the case. For those interested in a more obscure meaning, the word is also a freemasonry term for someone who isn’t recognized as a regular member. If your characters tend to engage in secretive and even illegitimate acts, you may have fun writing about the “clandestine” events in your stories!

What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?

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