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n. pl. se·cre·cies
1. The quality or condition of being secret or hidden; concealment: work done in secrecy.
2. The practice or habit of keeping secrets: swore him to secrecy.

[Alteration of Middle English secretee, from secret, secret; see secret.]


n, pl -cies
1. the state or quality of being secret
2. the state of keeping something secret
3. the ability or tendency to keep things secret


(ˈsi krə si)

n., pl. -cies.
1. the state or condition of being secret or concealed.
2. privacy; retirement; seclusion.
3. ability to keep a secret.
4. the habit or characteristic of being secretive; reticence.
[1570-80; alter., by substitution of -cy, of earlier, late Middle English secret(e)e= Middle English secre (< Old French secre, variant of secret secret) + -tee -ty2]


  1. About as loose-lipped as a Swiss banker —Harold Adams
  2. Another person’s secret is like another person’s money: you are not so careful with it as you are with your own —Edgar Watson Howe
  3. As secret as the grave —Miguel de Cervantes
  4. Close up like a cabbage —John Andrew Holmes
  5. Close up like a fist —Anon
  6. Covert as a brass band —George F. Will
  7. Fondles his secrets like a case of tools —Karl Shapiro
  8. Furtive as a chipmunk —R. V. Cassill
  9. Hide … like a disgrace —George Gissing
  10. In the mind and nature of a man a secret is an ugly thing, like a hidden physical defect —Isak Dinesen
  11. Lurking like a pilot fish among sharks —Speer Morgan
  12. Move … like a rodent, furtively —John Phillips
  13. Peered out (into the corridor) as stealthily as a mouse leaving its subterranean hole —Donald Seaman
  14. (My face is an open secret but in my letters I) perform like a true diplomat, cunning and sly —Delmore Schwartz

    See Also: CLEVERNESS

  15. Private and tight as a bank vault —Marge Piercy
  16. Secrecy as tight as a bull’s ass in fly time —Stephen Longstreet
  17. Secret as silence —Babette Deutsch
  18. A secret at home is like rocks under tide —D. M. Mulock
  19. Secret operations [by a government] are like sin; unless you’re good at sinning, you shouldn’t do it —George Kennan, CBS/TV, March 31, 1987
  20. Secrets are like measles: they take easy and spread easy —Bartlett’s Dictionary of Americanisms

    Now that measles is controlled by vaccine, a virus or the common cold would probably be a more appropriate point of reference.

  21. She has a mouth like a padlock —Graham Greene
  22. Sneak away [for an acceptable, honorable activity] … as furtively as if he were stealing to a lover’s tryst —Edith Wharton
  23. Stealthy and slow as a hidden sin —Stephen Vincent Benet See Also: SLOWNESS



button one’s lip To keep quiet or silent; to keep a secret; also button up and button up one’s face or lip. The expression has been in use since 1868.

hugger-mugger Covert or clandestine behavior, secrecy, furtiveness; confusion or disarray. This expression, possibly derived from the Middle English mokeren ‘to conceal,’ appeared in Shakespeare’s Hamlet regarding the manner of Polonius’ burial:

And we have done but greenly In hugger mugger to inter him. (IV,v)

Although the expression maintains its furtive connotation, hugger-mugger now more frequently carries the meaning of jumbled confusion or disorganization, a meaning it assumed because clandestine activity is often hurried and haphazard.

You find matters … so clumsily set out, that you fare in the style called hugger-mugger. (William Jerdan, Autobiography, 1853)

in petto Undisclosed, kept secret; private, in one’s own thoughts or contemplation. This expression is Italian for ‘in the breast.’ Citations dating from the 17th century indicate that in petto is applied almost exclusively to affairs of church or state.

There are seven cardinals still remaining in petto, whose names the Pope keeps secret. (London Gazette, 1712)

little pitchers have big ears An exhortation or reminder to guard one’s tongue because children may overhear words not intended for their ears. The handle of a pitcher is sometimes called its “ear.” Thus, pitchers have ears is a pun on ears, and is analogous in meaning to walls have ears. This expression appeared in print by the mid-1500s; the later addition of little limits the kind of listeners to children.

Surely Miss Gray, knowing that little pitchers have ears, would have corrected the mistake. (Sarah Tytler, Buried Diamonds, 1886)

mum’s the word Remain silent; do not breathe a word of what was just said. Shakespeare conveyed this meaning in Henry VI, Part II:

Seal up your lips, and give no word but—mum. (I, ii)

This expression may have derived from the m-m sound, which can be produced only with closed lips. The phrase is particularly commonplace in Great Britain.

As to Cornwall, … between you and me, Mrs. Harper, mum’s the word. (Dinah Mulock, Agatha’s Husband, 1852)

on the q.t. Secretly, surreptitiously, covertly, clandestinely, on the sly. Q.t. is simply an abbreviation of the word quiet in the original expression on the quiet.

It will be possible to have one spree on the strict q.t. (George Moore, A Mummer’s Wife, 1884)

skeleton in the closet A family secret or scandal kept concealed to avoid public shame and disgrace; any confidential matter which, if revealed, could be a source of embarrassment, humiliation, or abasement. Though popularized in the writings of William Thackeray (1811-63), skeleton in the closet is reputedly based on an earlier legend that tells of a search for a truly happy person, one free from cares and woes. After such a person had apparently been found, she opened a closet and exposed a human skeleton. “I try to keep my troubles to myself,” she explained, “but every night my husband compels me to kiss that skeleton.” The skeleton, it seems, was that of a former paramour whom her husband had killed.

Some particulars regarding the Newcome family … will show us that they have a skeleton or two in their closets. (William Thackeray, The Newcomes, 1855)

A British variation is skeleton in the cupboard.

sub rosa Under the rose—in secret, privately, confidentially. Attempts have been made to trace the origin of this phrase to classical times; however, the OED states that it has Germanic origins. In Germany, and later in England and Holland, it was a common practice to paint or sculpture roses on the ceilings of banquet halls. The rose was a symbol reminding the revelers to watch their words. The phrase appeared in print by the mid-16th century. The English version under the rose is also heard.

Being all under the Rose they had privilege to speak all things with freedom. (James Howell, Parables Reflecting Upon the Times, 1643)

under one’s hat Secret, private, confidential; between you, me, and the lamppost; usually to keep something under one’s hat.

I’d be very grateful … if you’d keep the whole affair under your hat. (N. Marsh, Dead Water, 1963)

Although the exact origin of this expression is not known, perhaps at one time the space under a person’s hat was literally used to conceal things. Use of the phrase dates from the late 19th century.

walls have ears An admonition to be discreet in speech, implying that privacy is never certain and that no one is to be trusted. The expression is often linked with the so-called auriculaires of the Louvre Palace, tubes within the walls by means of which Catherine de Médicis reputedly learned of state secrets. There is no evidence, however, that the phrase actually owes its origin to these contrivances. A similar concept and personification appeared contemporaneously in Heywood’s Proverbs (1562):

Fields have eyes and woods have ears.

ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.secrecy - the trait of keeping things secret
uncommunicativeness - the trait of being uncommunicative
mum - secrecy; "mum's the word"
2.secrecy - the condition of being concealed or hiddensecrecy - the condition of being concealed or hidden
isolation - a state of separation between persons or groups
covertness, hiddenness - the state of being covert and hidden
bosom - the chest considered as the place where secret thoughts are kept; "his bosom was bursting with the secret"
confidentiality - the state of being secret; "you must respect the confidentiality of your client's communications"
hiding - the state of being hidden; "he went into hiding"


2. confidentiality, privacy, private nature, classified nature The secrecy of the confessional.
3. confidentiality, privacy, silence, retirement, solitude, seclusion These problems had to be dealt with in the secrecy of your own cell.
"If you would wish another to keep your secret, first keep it yourself" [Seneca Hippolytus]


The habit, practice, or policy of keeping secrets:
gizliliksır saklama


[ˈsiːkrəsɪ] Nsecreto m
in secrecyen secreto, a escondidas
in the strictest secrecyde manera totalmente confidencial, en el más absoluto secreto
I was told in the strictest secrecyse me dijo de manera totalmente confidencial
to swear sb to secrecyhacer que algn jure no revelar algo
there's no secrecy about itno es ningún secreto
there was an air of secrecy about herla rodeaba un halo de misterio
see also shroud B2
see also veil A


[ˈsiːkrəsi] nsecret m
in secrecy → en secret


n (of person, = ability to keep secrets) → Verschwiegenheit f; (= secretiveness)Geheimnistuerei f, → Heimlichtuerei f; (of event, talks)Heimlichkeit f; in secrecyim Geheimen; in strict secrecyganz im Geheimen; there is no secrecy about itdas ist kein Geheimnis ? swear


[ˈsiːkrəsɪ] nsegretezza
there's no secrecy about ... → non si fa mistero di...
in secrecy → in segreto, in tutta segretezza


(ˈsiːkrit) adjective
hidden from, unknown to, or not told to, other people. a secret agreement; He kept his illness secret from everybody.
1. something which is, or must be kept, secret. The date of their marriage is a secret; industrial secrets.
2. a hidden explanation. I wish I knew the secret of her success.
ˈsecrecy noun
the state of being or the act of keeping secret.
ˈsecretive (-tiv) adjective
inclined to conceal one's activities, thoughts etc. secretive behaviour.
ˈsecretively adverb
ˈsecretiveness noun
ˈsecretly adverb
in such a way that others do not know, see etc. He secretly copied the numbers down in his notebook.
secret agent
a spy.
secret police
a police force whose activities are kept secret and which is concerned mostly with political crimes.
in secret
secretly. This must all be done in secret.
keep a secret
not to tell (something secret) to anyone else. You can't trust her to keep a secret.
References in classic literature ?
asked Amy, coming into their room one Saturday afternoon, and finding them getting ready to go out with an air of secrecy which excited her curiosity.
but he spotted us at once, in spite of our secrecy.
When we last spake together," said Hester, "now seven years ago, it was your pleasure to extort a promise of secrecy as touching the former relation betwixt yourself and me.
The poor fellow had got the attorney to promise secrecy, but what of that?
The mysterious trouble to which Jane had alluded was a very real one, but it was held in profound secrecy.
If he had been anxious for secrecy, he would not have left the paper while I was by; but he rather pushed it towards me than towards you.
But for this strange kind of secrecy maintained by them relative to their engagement, which in fact concealed nothing at all, she could not account; and it was so wholly contradictory to their general opinions and practice, that a doubt sometimes entered her mind of their being really engaged, and this doubt was enough to prevent her making any inquiry of Marianne.
The most absorbing thing, however, was the preparations to be made before Colin could be transported with sufficient secrecy to the garden.
As he bent his head in his most courtly manner, there was a secrecy in his smiling face, and he conveyed an air of mystery to those words, which struck the eyes and ears of his nephew forcibly.
A certain mysterious feeling, consequent on the darkness, the secrecy of the revel, and the whisper in which everything was said, steals over me again, and I listen to all they tell me with a vague feeling of solemnity and awe, which makes me glad that they are all so near, and frightens me (though I feign to laugh) when Traddles pretends to see a ghost in the corner.
Then, as the marsh winds made the fire glow and flare, I thought I heard the voice outside, of the man with the iron on his leg who had sworn me to secrecy, declaring that he couldn't and wouldn't starve until to-morrow, but must be fed now.
Edward answers by fresh assurances of secrecy, and again urges on him the necessity of procuring some venison.