I'm unsure if there is any term for this other than "A secretive marriage", but figured I would let you smart forum goers decide.

I am aware of the word

Elope: To run away secretly with the intention of getting married usually without parental consent

However, this states two things that I do not need in the definition. (1) Running away and (2) Hiding it or doing it against the will of one's parents. This implies that the person(s) are of a younger age (likely under 18).

I am looking for a broader term, i.e. These two people have a "insert_here" marriage. Where the term is not limited by age or running away, only that it is secretive. As to why it is secret, it does not necessarily matter, but could include because they share opposite religions that the family members do not approve of, race, ethnicity, social status, etc. Also, the couple does not hide that they are together (dating), but merely does not let others know that they are already married.

Either way, thanks for your help!

  • All of your examples are valid reasons to elope. As to why they did, they're very private people. I'm curious why you would mention the verb elope, when the term you wish to replace is an adjective and a noun.
    – Mazura
    Jul 3, 2015 at 0:18
  • @Mazura - I honestly don't care if the answer is a single word or an expression. I used the verb 'Elope' because it is the only singular word that I am familiar with that describes a certain circumstance regarding marriage. Jul 3, 2015 at 0:29
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    Inter-caste marriage, Interracial marriage, Interreligious marriage: Types of Marriages -Wiki. IMO, if this doesn't help you, you're just looking for synonyms to secretive.
    – Mazura
    Jul 3, 2015 at 0:40
  • 1
    Elope is unsuitable for your purposes not because it refers to underage participants or running away or anything like that (because it doesn't), but because it refers to the wedding only, and you want a word for a marriage.
    – Marthaª
    Jul 3, 2015 at 16:03
  • @Marthaª Elopement doesn't necessarily refer to a marriage or a wedding actually. It originally referred to the act of lovers running away together for lack of either. The parental consent bit doesn't refer to being underage though. In the past, fathers used to have legal ownership of their daughters so if daddy said "No!" you could not get legally married and hence, you would elope instead to continue the affair illicitly...
    – Tonepoet
    Jul 3, 2015 at 18:01

6 Answers 6


You might call it a clandestine marriage

kept secret or done secretively, especially because illicit.
"she deserved better than these clandestine meetings"


The wikipedia article on a Fleet Marriage, for example, refers to clandestine marriages as a type of fleet marriage:

..."Clandestine" marriages were those that had an element of secrecy to them: perhaps they took place away from a home parish, and without either banns or marriage licence

For another example (that this is not just [synonym for secret] stuck in front of 'marriage'), the subject and title of this book:

Clandestine Marriage in England 1500 - 1850, R. B. Outhwaite (Google Books)

  • @TusharRaj Thank you. It was just the first hit in this search: google.co.uk/search?q=clandestine+marriage ;)
    – Avon
    Jul 2, 2015 at 21:08
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    Well, the fact that you included something other than the usual dictionary link/def is commendable. Now that you've crossed 2k, maybe apply those editing skills to posts of others as well :)
    – Tushar Raj
    Jul 2, 2015 at 21:14
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    That's just a fancier word for "secret"... Jul 3, 2015 at 12:12
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    @BolucPapuccuoglu Shhh. I know but don't tell anyone. It can be our little clandestine... no wait!
    – Avon
    Jul 3, 2015 at 12:24
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    @BolucPapuccuoglu But seriously, if that's all I was doing then it would be a poor answer and that's why the citation was necessary. A clandestine marriage is a thing.
    – Avon
    Jul 4, 2015 at 9:16

These two people have a private marriage.

1.1 (Of a conversation, activity, or gathering) involving only a particular person or group, and often dealing with matters that are not to be disclosed to others:
this is a private conversation a small
private service in the chapel

Oxford Dictionaries Online


Such a marriage could be considered, in modern parlance, to be on the “down-low.”

down-low: (also "on the down low" or "on the DL") may refer to any activity or relationship kept discreet. Specifically, it may refer to:

• Keeping an act, action or some other piece of information a secret.

• Down-low (sexual slang): Men who identify as heterosexual, but have sex with men secretly.


down-low noun (uncountable):

1. secrecy I'll tell you, but keep it on the down low.

2. (sexuality) the state of being a man who secretly sleeps with people other than his partner

3. (sexuality) the state of being a man who secretly sleeps with other me.



Since most members here are middle-aged, I presume, I suggest an old slang term:"on the QT"

  • The slang term 'qt' is a shortened form of 'quiet'. There's no definitive source for the phrase 'on the q.t.', although it appears to be of 19th century British origin - not, as is often supposed, American. The longer phrase 'on the quiet' is also not especially old, but is first recorded somewhat before 'on the qt', in Otago: Goldfields & Resources, 1862

  • "on the Q.T. (alternative forms: on the qt, on the QT, on the q.t.) (idiomatic) Quietly; in a secretive manner; clandestinely. Wiktionary


  • They told her on the Q.T. that she was being promoted.
  • They got married on the Q.T.
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    "Since most members here are middle-aged" What? Jul 4, 2015 at 0:16
  • @curiousdannii I said "I presume". And "on the Q.T. was current usage years ago.
    – Centaurus
    Jul 4, 2015 at 0:19
  • Middle aged - why would you presume such a thing?
    – Mynamite
    Jul 4, 2015 at 9:53
  • Assuming the data is accurate, and depending on your definition of "middle-aged," here's the age distribution for the English Language & Usage Stack Exchange: data.stackexchange.com/english/query/332264/…
    – skeggse
    Jul 5, 2015 at 5:16
  • @skeggse That was surprising. Could you run a search including only those users who are frequent visitors (at least twice a week or 100 times a year) or those who have a rep above 5000? That's the group I presume to be middle-aged. If we include those who have come only once or twice to get help for their school homework, then of course the average is much lower.
    – Centaurus
    Jul 5, 2015 at 13:20

If it is because their families or peers would not approve, you could call it

illicit -

contrary to accepted morality (especially sexual morality) or convention


I've seen "it was a small, private ceremony" used to justify why certain people were not invited to a wedding. You could similarly say we started our marriage with a small, private ceremony to get similar phrasing to what you're looking for.

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