• clandestine •
klæn-des-tin • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Suspiciously secret, undercover, intentionally kept from the knowledge of others.
Notes: This word has done well in English, picking up two noun variations, clandestinity and clandestineness. The adverb, of course, is clandestinely. It is a word used to depict both legally secret operations, such as spying or undercover police work or, on the other hand, illegal ones.
In Play: Clandestine work may be perfectly legitimate: "We think Roswell is uncommunicative as a result of all the clandestine work he did for the Army before assuming his current job." On the other hand, it may not be: "Judging from the array of lawyers traipsing in and out of the office of Phil Anders, I would say that his wife caught wind of his 'clandestine' affair with his secretary."
Word History: Clandestine is an odd word with an odd history. It is the English makeover of Latin clandestinus "secret", probably a compound from the adverb clam "secretly" + destinare "intend, determine". Others have suggested that it is a combination of clam + de (adverb suffix) + intestinus "internal". The choice is yours: both are rather shaky. Clam itself comes from a root kol/kel- "conceal" that turned up in English hull, helmet, and hollow. It has no relation to English clam at all. In Latin we see it again in occultus "covered, concealed", which gave us English occult. The Greek variant went into the name of the water nymph Calypso, which we use today in reference to Caribbean music for reasons that also remain unknown. (We have do good reason, however, to thank Jan Arps in a completely unclandestine manner for the suggestion of today's Good Word.)
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