Printable Version
Pronunciation: fêr-tiv Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Surreptitious, shifty, secretive, stealthy in an attempt to hide something.

Notes: The sound [fr] is spelled several different ways in English: fur, fir and, in some dialects, for and far (neither of which we encourage). So, you must remember that this word begins with the word for soft animal hair. The adverb is furtively and the noun, furtiveness.

In Play: Today's Good Word may be used positively or negatively. Furtiveness can imply a cover-up of improper behavior: "Calvin worried about the furtive dealings between his friend, Murray, and a shady character he met at the race track." It may also imply the cover-up of a perfectly innocent enterprise: "Mom noticed none of the furtive preparations for the surprise birthday party for her going on at the house."

Word History: This Good Word comes from our usual source of loan words, Latin furtivus "stolen, purloined", via French furtif (feminine furtive). The Latin adjective comes from furtum "theft", itself from fur "thief". No, this word has nothing to do with the fur trade but is related to Latin ferre "to carry", since thieves are known for carrying things off. The same original root, bher- "to carry", ended up in English as bear (the verb), burden, and birth. (There is nothing furtive in our gratitude to Lew Jury for suggesting today's solidly Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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