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Clandestine vs. Tryst: What's the Difference?

By Harlon Moss & Aimie Carlson || Updated on May 29, 2024
Clandestine refers to something secretive or hidden, often for deceptive purposes, while tryst denotes a secret meeting, especially between lovers.

Key Differences

Clandestine is an adjective describing actions or events that are kept secret, usually because they are illicit or unauthorized. For example, a clandestine operation might refer to covert military actions or secret meetings that are hidden from public knowledge to avoid detection. A tryst, on the other hand, is a noun that specifically refers to a secret meeting, particularly between lovers. Unlike clandestine, which can describe a wide range of secretive activities, a tryst focuses more narrowly on romantic or intimate encounters that are kept hidden from others.
Clandestine emphasizes the hidden nature and often the illicit or deceptive aspect of an action. It can be used in various contexts, such as clandestine meetings, plans, or operations, often implying something more serious or secretive than just a meeting. Tryst implies a specific type of clandestine meeting, typically romantic. It carries a connotation of intimacy and secrecy, often because the meeting is forbidden or socially disapproved.
The term clandestine can apply to broader and more serious contexts, such as espionage or covert operations, whereas tryst is usually used in a more personal and romantic context, indicating a secret liaison between two people.

Comparison Chart

Part of Speech



Secretive or hidden, often illicit
Secret meeting, especially between lovers

Usage Example

"They held a clandestine meeting at night"
"They arranged a tryst at the old cabin"


Often implies deception or illicit nature
Implies romantic or intimate secrecy

Common Contexts

Operations, plans, meetings
Romantic or intimate encounters

Clandestine and Tryst Definitions


Illicitly hidden.
The organization engaged in clandestine activities.


A private, romantic rendezvous.
The couple met for a tryst under the stars.


Disguised or undercover.
The agents worked in a clandestine manner.


An appointment to meet secretly.
Their tryst was discovered by a passerby.


Secretive to avoid detection.
They exchanged clandestine messages to avoid surveillance.


An agreed-upon place and time for a secret meeting.
The lovers' tryst was at the secluded beach.


Kept secret or done secretively.
The group held a clandestine meeting to discuss the plan.


An agreement between lovers to meet at a certain time and place.


Conducted with hidden aims or methods.
The spy was involved in a clandestine operation.


A usually private meeting or meeting place that has been agreed on by lovers.


Conducted with or marked by hidden aims or methods;
Clandestine intelligence operations
Cloak-and-dagger activities behind enemy lines
Hole-and-corner intrigue
Secret missions
A secret agent
Secret sales of arms
Surreptitious mobilization of troops
An undercover investigation
Underground resistance


To keep a tryst.


Kept or done in secret, often to conceal an illicit or improper purpose.


A prearranged meeting or assignation, now especially between lovers to meet at a specific place and time.


Done or kept in secret, sometimes to conceal an illicit or improper purpose.
Clandestine military operations


(obsolete) A mutual agreement, a covenant.


Not recognized as a regular member.


A market fair, especially a recurring one held on a schedule, where livestock sales took place.


Conducted with secrecy; withdrawn from public notice, usually for an evil purpose; kept secret; hidden; private; underhand; as, a clandestine marriage.


(intransitive) To make a tryst; to agree to meet at a place.


(transitive) To arrange or appoint (a meeting time etc.).


(intransitive) To keep a tryst, to meet at an agreed place and time.




An appointment to meet; also, an appointed place or time of meeting; as, to keep tryst; to break tryst.
The tenderest-hearted maidThat ever bided tryst at village stile.


To trust.


To agree with to meet at a certain place; to make an appointment with.


To mutually agree to meet at a certain place.


A date; usually with a member of the opposite sex


A secret rendezvous (especially between lovers)


A secret meeting between lovers.
They planned a tryst at their favorite spot in the park.


A planned meeting, often romantic and secretive.
She eagerly awaited their midnight tryst.


What does clandestine mean?

Clandestine means secretive or hidden, often for deceptive or illicit purposes.

Can clandestine describe a meeting?

Yes, a meeting can be described as clandestine if it is kept secret.

What is a tryst?

A tryst is a secret meeting, especially between lovers.

Is a tryst always romantic?

Typically, a tryst implies a romantic or intimate meeting.

Can a business meeting be clandestine?

Yes, if it is kept secret for strategic or illicit reasons.

Is a tryst planned?

Yes, a tryst is a planned secret meeting.

What is an example of a tryst?

e.g., The lovers met for a tryst at the old barn.

Is tryst used in modern language?

Yes, it is still used, especially in literary or romantic contexts.

Can clandestine refer to romantic meetings?

It can, but it generally refers to a broader range of secretive activities.

Can clandestine be used in a positive context?

Rarely, as it usually implies secrecy and possible wrongdoing.

Does a tryst have a specific time and place?

Yes, a tryst involves a prearranged time and place.

What is an example of clandestine?

e.g., The committee held a clandestine meeting to avoid media attention.

Can a conversation be clandestine?

Yes, if it is secret and concealed from others.

Is a tryst illicit?

A tryst can be illicit if the relationship or meeting is forbidden.

Does tryst imply frequency?

Not necessarily; it can refer to a one-time meeting or recurring secret encounters.

Is tryst associated with deception?

It can be if the meeting is meant to be hidden from others.

Are clandestine and covert synonymous?

They are similar, but clandestine often implies illicit or unauthorized secrecy.

Can a mission be clandestine?

Yes, if it is conducted secretly and covertly.

Can clandestine apply to documents?

Yes, clandestine documents are kept hidden and secret.

Can tryst be used for non-romantic meetings?

Rarely, as it typically implies a romantic context.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Co-written by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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