Definition of secret in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈsēkrit/


1Not known or seen or not meant to be known or seen by others: how did you guess I had a secret plan? the resupply effort was probably kept secret from Congress
More example sentences
  • His secret plans for a new and unconventional way of life have only just emerged from the letters he wrote to friends.
  • Even after the secret escape plan was revealed and all hell broke loose, the company held fast to its priorities.
  • This was a secret visit planned with military precision.
confidential, top secret, classified, undisclosed, unknown, private, under wraps
informal hush-hush
formal sub rosa
hidden, concealed, disguised;
cryptic, encoded, coded;
mysterious, abstruse, recondite, arcane, esoteric, Kabbalistic
secluded, private, concealed, hidden, unfrequented, out of the way, tucked away
1.1 [attributive] Not meant to be known as such by others: a secret drinker
More example sentences
  • Mr Hague reveals his history as a secret drinker in an interview published today in a glossy men's magazine.
  • And once you start talking, they will repeat what you say, and soon you will have a reputation of a secret drinker.
  • I'm a secret real ale drinker from time to time - could I be an English Democrat?
1.2Fond of or good at keeping things about oneself unknown: he can be the most secret man
1.3(Of information or documents) given the security classification above confidential and below top secret.
Example sentences
  • They were secret documents which indicated and gave information about our involvement in Korea and North Vietnam, in both those wars.
  • In addition, prisoners and secret documents were captured.
  • It is hardly surprising that once the existence of the order leaked out, suspicions arose that the documents contained secret information not revealed at the Inquiry.


1Something that is kept or meant to be kept unknown or unseen by others: a state secret at first I tried to keep it a secret from my wife
More example sentences
  • But they're going to have to keep it a secret from everybody else…
  • Our families knew about it in advance and somehow managed to keep it a secret from me.
  • It also relates to hidden and unknown matters, secrets and private enemies.
confidential matter, confidence, private affair;
skeleton in the closet
1.1Something that is not properly understood; a mystery: I’m not trying to explain the secrets of the universe in this book
More example sentences
  • I can't explore the country's culture properly and learn its secrets.
  • Tour the grounds and uncover the mysteries and secrets of its plant life.
  • This house is history personified with all its grandeur, mysteries and unravelled secrets.
mystery, enigma, paradox, puzzle, conundrum, poser, riddle
1.2A valid but not commonly known or recognized method of achieving or maintaining something: the secret of a happy marriage is compromise
More example sentences
  • The secret to achieving and maintaining healthy, young looking skin is balance in your life and skin care routine.
  • Their secret is the Taguchi Method, which is a technique for designing experiments that converge on an ideal product solution.
  • The secret, La Collins maintains, to her youthful flush is nothing other than petroleum jelly and water.
recipe, (magic) formula, blueprint, key, answer, solution
1.3Formerly, the name of a prayer said by the priest in a low voice after the offertory in a Roman Catholic Mass.



be in on the secret

Be among the few people who know something.
Example sentences
  • His wife, Lynne, and children Craig and Rachel were in on the secret and helped to plan and organise the tribute.
  • The gig had been arranged in total secrecy and only her husband was in on the secret.
  • ‘This idea of 420 being a ‘secret code’ is kind of funny, when you think that a third of the population is in on the secret.

in secret

Without others knowing.
Example sentences
  • Is it acceptable that MPs should have the privilege of voting in secret?
  • He took them quickly and in secret, hiding the camera under a long, shabby overcoat.
  • Old forms of government have every reason to operate in secret, while denying just that privilege to subjects.

make no secret of something

Make something perfectly clear.
Example sentences
  • He's quite proud of that stance and makes no secret of it.
  • It strikes me that if I'm looking to make a fortune overnight - and I make no secret of it, I am - then poker may be the answer.
  • In the case that's true, then you've got to remember that he despises the Bush administration and made no secret of it.


Late Middle English: from Old French, from Latin secretus (adjective) 'separate, set apart', from the verb secernere, from se- 'apart' + cernere 'sift'.

  • Secret goes back to the Latin adjective secretus meaning ‘separate, set apart’. Secretary (Late Middle English) originally referred to a ‘person entrusted with a secret’. A secretarius in late Latin was a ‘confidential officer’. Secrete (mid 18th century) meaning ‘to hide’ is from the same source, but the sense secrete ‘produce and discharge’ (secreting insulin) dates from the early 18th century and was from secretion (mid 17th century) which is from Latin secretio ‘separation’.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: se·cret

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.