[adjective koh-vert, kuhv-ert; noun kuhv-ert, koh-vert]



Origin of covert

1275–1325; Middle English < Anglo-French, Old French < Latin coopertus, past participle of cooperīre to cover completely; see cover
Related formsco·vert·ly, adverbco·vert·ness, noun
Can be confusedcovert overt

Synonyms for covert

Pronunciation note

Covert, related to cover, has historically been pronounced [kuhv-ert] /ˈkʌv ərt/, with [uh] /ʌ/, the same stressed vowel found in cover. This [uh] /ʌ/ is the traditional and unchallenged vowel in many other English words spelled with stressed o followed by v, voiced th, or a nasal in the same syllable, words of high frequency like love and above, mother and other, some and honey. The adjective covert, however, by analogy with overt [oh-vurt, oh-vert] /oʊˈvɜrt, ˈoʊ vərt/, its semantic opposite, has developed the pronunciation [koh-vert] /ˈkoʊ vərt/, perhaps because of the frequent coupling of the two terms in the news media. This is now the more common pronunciation for the adjective in American English, though not in British English, which retains the historical pronunciation. For the noun senses, less likely to appear in the news or to be contrasted with overt and its [oh] /oʊ/ sound, the historical [kuhv-ert] /ˈkʌv ərt/ remains the more frequent pronunciation. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for covertly

Contemporary Examples of covertly

Historical Examples of covertly

  • "No, it's bloom," hastened Cornelia, covertly wiping it off.

  • But he might covertly reveal himself to one who understood him well.

    A Spirit in Prison

    Robert Hichens

  • She watches him covertly, uneasily, longing for the end of the run.

    The Cuckoo Clock

    Wesley Barefoot

  • I answered this by some sort of grunt, watching him covertly.

  • "Thanks for the invitation," he said aloud, as he covertly nursed his right hand.


    Eliot H. Robinson

British Dictionary definitions for covertly



concealed or secretcovert jealousy
law Compare feme covert, discovert


a shelter or disguise
a thicket or woodland providing shelter for game
short for covert cloth
ornithol any of the small feathers on the wings and tail of a bird that surround the bases of the larger feathers
a flock of coots
Derived Formscovertly, adverbcovertness, noun

Word Origin for covert

C14: from Old French: covered, from covrir to cover
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for covertly



c.1300, from Old French covert "hidden, obscure, underhanded," literally "covered," past participle of covrir "to cover" (see cover). Related: Covertly.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper