Meaning of SECRET in English


I. se ‧ cret 1 S3 W2 /ˈsiːkrət, ˈsiːkrɪt/ BrE AmE adjective

[ Word Family: noun : ↑ secrecy , ↑ secret , ↑ secretiveness ; adverb : ↑ secretly , ↑ secretively ; adjective : ↑ secret , ↑ secretive ; verb : ↑ secrete ]

[ Date: 1300-1400 ; Language: Old French ; Origin: Latin secretus , past participle of secernere 'to separate' ]

1 . known about by only a few people and kept hidden from others ⇨ secrecy :

They kept their relationship secret from their parents.

agents on a secret mission

secret talks with the terrorists

secret compartment/passage etc

The drugs were found in a secret compartment in Campbell’s suitcase.

secret ingredient/recipe/formula

The cookies are made to a secret recipe.

2 . [only before noun] secret feelings, worries, or actions are ones that you do not want other people to know about:

His secret fear was that Jenny would leave him.

Did you know you had a secret admirer (=someone who is secretly in love with you) ?

3 . secret weapon something that will help you gain a big advantage over your competitors, that they do not know about

4 . used to describe the behaviour of someone who is keeping their thoughts, intentions, or actions hidden from other people SYN secretive

secret about

They’re being very secret about it.

There was a secret smile on her face.

—secretly adverb :

They were secretly married.

• • •


▪ secret known about by only a few people, who have agreed not to tell anyone else:

a secret meeting place


The details of the proposal must remain secret.

▪ confidential used about information, especially in business or government, that is secret and not intended to be shown or told to other people:

a highly confidential report


Employees’ personal details are treated as strictly confidential.

▪ classified used about information that the government has ordered to be kept secret from most people:

He was accused of passing on classified information to the Russians in the 1950s.

▪ sensitive used about information that is kept secret because there would be problems if the wrong people knew it:

A teenager managed to hack into sensitive US Air Force files.

▪ covert [only before noun] used about things that are done secretly, especially by a government or official organization:

a CIA covert operation

▪ undercover [usually before noun] used about things that are done secretly by the police in order to catch criminals or find out information:

Detectives arrested the suspect after a five-day undercover operation.

▪ underground an underground organization or newspaper is one that operates or is produced secretly and opposes the government:

Her father was a member of the underground resistance movement in France during World War II.

▪ clandestine /klænˈdestən, klænˈdestɪn/ secret and often illegal or immoral:

clandestine meetings


his involvement in a clandestine operation to sell arms to Iran


a clandestine love affair

▪ hush-hush informal used about information or activities that are kept officially secret:

He was put in charge of some hush-hush military project.


I’ve no idea what he does – it’s all very hush-hush.


▪ confidential information/document/report/letter/inquiry

▪ classified information/document/material

▪ sensitive information/files

▪ covert operation/support/activities/war/aid

▪ undercover agent/operation/investigation/work

▪ underground organization/newspaper/economy

▪ clandestine meeting/operation/organization/network

▪ hush-hush research/project/experiment

II. secret 2 S3 W3 BrE AmE noun [countable]

[ Word Family: noun : ↑ secrecy , ↑ secret , ↑ secretiveness ; adverb : ↑ secretly , ↑ secretively ; adjective : ↑ secret , ↑ secretive ; verb : ↑ secrete ]

1 . something that is kept hidden or that is known about by only a few people ⇨ secrecy :

I can’t tell you. It’s a secret.

It was no secret that the two men hated each other.

Don’t worry. Your secret is safe with me (=I won’t tell anyone about it) .

2 . in secret in a private way or place that other people do not know about:

The negotiations were conducted in secret.

3 . the secret a particular way of achieving a good result, that is the best or only way

the secret to (doing) something

The secret to making good pastry is to use very cold water.

Your hair always looks so great – what’s your secret?

What do you think is the secret of her success?

4 . make no secret of something to make your opinions about something clear:

Louise made no secret of her dislike for John.

5 . the secrets of life/nature/the universe etc the things no one yet knows about life, nature etc

• • •


■ verbs

▪ have a secret

We have no secrets from each other.

▪ know a secret (=about someone else)

You can tell Tom that I know his secret.

▪ keep a secret (=not tell it to anyone)

Can you keep a secret?

▪ tell somebody a secret

Shall I tell you a secret?

▪ let somebody in on a secret (=tell them a secret)

Frank let me in on the secret.

▪ reveal/divulge a secret formal (=tell it to someone)

He was accused of revealing state secrets.

▪ give away a secret (=tell it to someone carelessly or by mistake)

I had to be careful not to give away any secrets.

▪ share a secret (=tell it to someone because you trust them)

I trusted Alexander, so I decided to share my secret with him.

▪ discover/find out a secret

He was afraid that someone would discover his secret.


▪ a big secret (=an important secret or one that very few people know)

The event was supposed to be a big secret, but everyone knew about it.

▪ a little secret (=a personal secret that very few people know)

You must promise me that this will be our little secret.

▪ a closely guarded/well-kept secret (=a secret that few people are allowed to know)

The recipe is a closely guarded secret.

▪ an open secret (=something that a lot of people know, but do not talk about because it is supposed to be a secret)

It was an open secret that he was having an affair.

▪ a dark/terrible secret (=a secret about something bad)

I’m sure every family has a few dark secrets.

▪ a dirty secret (=a shameful secret)

The exclusion of black people from the film industry is one of Hollywood’s dirty little secrets.

▪ a guilty secret (=a secret that someone feels guilty about)

He had finally discovered Jo’s guilty secret.

▪ sb’s innermost secrets (=very private or personal secrets)

She wasn’t confident enough to share her innermost secrets with him.

▪ a family secret

Their normally strong relationship is threatened when he has to reveal a family secret.

▪ a state/official secret (=a government secret)

He was accused of passing on state secrets to a foreign power.

▪ a trade secret (=a company or business secret)

They must not betray their employer 's trust, for instance by giving away trade secrets.

▪ military secrets

He was sent to prison for five years in 1933 for selling military secrets to Germany.


► Do not say ˈsay a secretˈ or ˈsay your secretsˈ . Say tell somebody a secret or tell somebody your secrets .

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.      Longman - Словарь современного английского языка.