When I want to go outside, there are times I wish to avoid running into certain people such as friends or colleagues in order to have some private moments. In such cases, I frequently find myself finding routes different from the ones mainly used by these people, just to avoid being seen.

Is there an English word to describe this kind of action?


21 Answers 21


I sometimes take a different route so as to steer clear of friends or colleagues when I want a private moment.


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    This is not a single word though. – landocalrissian Sep 1 '15 at 12:53
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    But it is vocabulary! – chasly - supports Monica Sep 1 '15 at 12:56
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    @ChrisR - it may not be a single word, but, idiomatically, it parses as a single verb. – J.R. Sep 2 '15 at 18:52

You are taking evasive action, so as to evade (and avoid) those people.


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    I think the term evasive is the best fit here. It's commonly used to describe this type of behavior. – landocalrissian Sep 1 '15 at 12:55
  • I would have thought that Evade meant that you knew the object/person/task to be evaded, as opposed to chance encounters. – user001 Sep 1 '15 at 14:56
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    Evade is used when someone is chasing you or something is after you. Evade is defense to an aggressive action. – Malachi Sep 1 '15 at 22:27
  • +1 to Malachi's comment - in the sense the OP is describing avoid works well, but I can't think of a sentence that makes sense using evade when just avoiding co-workers to have a private moment. It is not like the OP is evading a confrontation with the boss or something. – jdf Sep 1 '15 at 23:54

The word avoid pretty much sums it up as well as possible. If you were to run into your "friend", they may ask, "Hey, are you avoiding me?". You could also use dodge, although this feels a little more dynamic. It might be better suited for when you see your friend coming, and you slip into an alley to avoid being seen. You could also use duck in the same manner as dodge. Avoid would be the better choice for premeditated evasion.

dodge - avoid (someone or something) by a sudden quick movement

duck - evade or avoid (an unwelcome duty or undertaking)

avoid - contrive not to meet (someone)

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    If one is looking for a very modern colloquialism to use like "dodge", one might use "duck" - e.g. "He's been ducking me all week." This originates in AAVE, I believe, but has spread some in recent years. – recognizer Sep 1 '15 at 16:34
  • @recognizer I think duck is worth an answer (with a cite and definition). – bib Sep 2 '15 at 1:03
  • One can't help but think of The 5 D's of Dodgeball – scohe001 Sep 2 '15 at 20:23

If you are being somewhat secretive about your movements, you are being furtive.

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    furtive: "attempting to avoid notice or attention, typically because of guilt or a belief that discovery would lead to trouble; secretive." The OP sounds like they just want some quiet time. As an introvert myself, I often avoid people I quite like without any guilt or fear of discovery leading to trouble. – jdf Sep 1 '15 at 23:56

Inconspicuous; inconspicuously

To travel inconspicuously means to go unnoticed, to not be seen, to not be conspicuous, to not stand out or to not be prominent.


The police waited outside for the suspect unaware that he inconspicuously escaped behind them.


I don't believe there is a verb that describes the OP's request: a reluctance to casually meet (or be seen by) friends in public places.

A person who prefers not to exchange pleasantries with strangers might be called unsociable, an introvert, or a deep thinker; but someone who cannot even bring themself to say “Hello” to a colleague or a friend they happen to meet in the street, is a person who wants to be alone. A word that describes the person, but not the action, is a loner.

Someone who deliberately avoids public places where he or she might bump into someone they know is a person who doesn't want to be recognized, who wishes nothing else than to be a faceless person in a crowd.

If this reluctance to speak to people is a habit than I might call that person ungregarious, but if it happens only occasionally then the person probably just needs to have some time alone

  • I think the word you're looking for is anti-social. (Anyone can be feeling anti-social on a given day!) – aparente001 Sep 2 '15 at 20:33
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    This is a fine example of the kind of answer we are looking for. It’s your own words and reasoning — not just a tale told by a Google, full of copy and pasta, and signifying nothing. :) – tchrist Sep 2 '15 at 21:06

In such a case, you would be going out incognito.

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    Going incognito usually refers to wearing a disguise or something else that obscures your identity from someone who might see you. The OP is avoiding people so he's not seen at all. – Nuclear Hoagie Sep 1 '15 at 14:10
  • @Matt travelling "incognito" does not necessarily mean "travelling in disguise," though the opposite is true, travelling in disguise is travelling incognito. Incognito means "identity concealed," which is not the same thing as "in disguise." One in disguise is intentionally deceiving, but there are other ways to conceal identity, namely, by simply not affirming identification. – chillin Sep 1 '15 at 22:25
  • @chillin If your friend sees you on the street and waves to you, but you see him and don't wave back, you're not affirming identity, but you haven't really concealed your identity to begin with, so I wouldn't say you're traveling incognito. – Nuclear Hoagie Sep 2 '15 at 7:10
  • @Matt I'd agree with you, but fail to see your point. Once seen by a friend, someone who knows you, you are then identified, and this can be true whether in disguise or not. However, if Bill Clinton walked up to you, and you said "hey! You're President Cinton!" and he said "you have me mistaken for someone else, that is not me, I am Sam." Then in fact this is still travelling incognito, regardless of lack of any disguise. Incognito merely means "identity concealed," and in fact has nothing to do with disguise, necessarily. – chillin Sep 2 '15 at 21:33

I would say you are going out surreptitiously.

A surreptitious action is done secretly.

He made a surreptitious entrance to the club through the little door in the brick wall.

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    OP is not acting stealthy, just hiding from people – Malachi Sep 1 '15 at 22:29

I think sneak works really well here. It has less of the negative connotation implied by other suggestions like skulk, creep, and furtive.

Example usage:

  • I snuck/sneaked out for a minute to get a breath of fresh air.

  • I am just going to sneak out for a minute to gather my thoughts.

  • She likes her co-workers, but she enjoys sneaking out alone on occasion.

From Wiktionary:

sneak (verb):

To come or go while trying to avoid detection, as a person who does not wish to be seen.

  • This could work well in the right sort of lay-out, for example, "The doctor snuck out the back door." – aparente001 Sep 2 '15 at 20:32
  • Please always name where you are copying someone else's words from, mark them as clearly not your own, and provide a link wherever possible. – tchrist Sep 2 '15 at 21:02
  • @tchrist Oops - my oversight, totally meant to add the citation. Thanks for fixing. – jdf Sep 2 '15 at 23:25

To shun may be used to to refer to that action:

  • (tr) to avoid deliberately; keep away from. (Collins)
  • I tend to shun places where I could meet colleagues and friends when I want to stay on my own.
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    'shun' does not imply a level of secrecy. On the contrary, in many instances shun is interchangeable with 'visibly and deliberately ignore'. Thus, while you may avoid contact, you don't necessarily end up avoiding the people. – Born2Smile Sep 1 '15 at 11:32
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    @Born2Smile - I take your point, but Josh's example is a perfectly valid sue of English, which meets the OP's requirements. To shun a person might be to "visibly and deliberately ignore", but I don't think the same is true of shunning a place. – AndyT Sep 1 '15 at 14:14

If I take your question as 'the act of seeking solitude', as a verb, there are only two I can think of, both uncommon.

'Sequester' in the sense of setting aside someone or something apart from normal activity, or 'cloister', which describes people retreating from society(usually for religious reasons).

You might say 'She's currently sequestered from all hobbies until she gets her debt paid down' or 'He's cloistered away at Walden Pond working on his book.'

Either would sound a bit odd in normal speech.

Australian Aboriginal culture has the idea of 'walkabout', which is a specific spiritual practice, but which is sometimes generalized to mean the need to walk around alone and think about things.


If you want to connote the fact that you are trying to avoid being seen while you are going out, you could use the phrase slip out, as in "I slipped out" or "I slipped out of the building".

From the Free Dictionary’s definition for slip out:

[for someone] to exit quietly without bothering anyone.

(of something) to sneak out of a place unnoticed.

  • Please accept my apologies. You were right and I was wrong. I had more than one post open and mispasted. – tchrist Sep 2 '15 at 21:57
  • @tchrist I understand. Glad to know I didn't have such major flaws in my original posting. Your version is still an improvement. – David K Sep 2 '15 at 21:58

Dodge from Dictionary.com:

verb (used with object), dodged, dodging.

  1. to elude or evade by a sudden shift of position or by strategy:

Used in a sentence:

  • In high school I would dodge the headmaster, while walking around school, to avoid detention.


The Oxford Dictionaries define enisle as:

Isolate on or as if on an island. It supplies this example:

"in the sea of life enisled, we mortal millions live alone"

In the context of the question at hand, the subject is purposefully isolating him/herself from social contact for private time. The beauty of enisle is the word picture it paints of isolation as if on an island, although this isolation can be surrounded by activity. Albeit, this word is very seldom used in casual conversation.

In the context, here is my example:

"I enisle myself from colleagues, to buy time for reflection."


"Social sequestration is my gateway to contemplation."

Note: Others had already offered this before I made my initial post, so I will defer to them. However, sequester is most often used in the legal sense of separating jurors from outside contact. Hence, the connotation is of an outside authority imposing the separation.

p.s. Please excuse my earlier terse response. I'm still learning proper list etiquette.


You are trying to be discreet:

: not likely to be seen or noticed by many people


undercover; under cover

When you do something under cover, it is done out of public view. Very often it is used in regards to investigatory work to describe an agent of law, such as "undercover officers." The expression is also commonly used to describe daylight, or lack of it, as in "under cover of darkness," or "under cover of nightfall."


Inspector Clouseau went undercover to avoid being recognized.

  • this is used when someone wants to hide their true identity or their true intentions, not for when they want time alone. this doesn't fit. – Malachi Sep 2 '15 at 14:28
  • @Malachi You have read a bit into the OP's question. The salient point of the question is regarding avoidance, the reason for the avoidance is incidental. If you want to avoid being seen (so you can have time to yourself or for whatever reason), you can achieve this by going and remaining under cover. If it satisfies the question, it certainly fits. – chillin Sep 2 '15 at 21:38
  • going undercover doesn't apply to the OP changing routes to avoid their friends. One would more or less go undercover to change ones appearance so that one wouldn't have to changes ones route, right? – Malachi Sep 2 '15 at 21:42
  • @Malachi Again, you are focusing on incidentals, re: "changing routes." The point of OP's action is to avoid being seen. If you wish to accomplish what the OP wishes, going undercover will provide this. – chillin Sep 2 '15 at 22:01

On certain days, I take an odd route home to protect my privacy.


in order to have some time to myself.


I would use the word skulk. You are skulking about to avoid being seen.


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    it doesn't appear that the OP is about to do something bad. : to move or hide in a secret way especially because you are planning to do something bad from the link you posted – Malachi Sep 1 '15 at 22:28
  • Especially if you are planning to do bad, does not mean exclusively. – Jarod S Sep 4 '15 at 15:00
  • : to move in a stealthy or furtive manner <skulked into her sister's room> this word doesn't fit what the OP is describing. – Malachi Sep 4 '15 at 15:03

How about stealth?

From Dictionary.com:


  1. Secret, clandestine, or surreptitious procedure.
  2. A furtive departure or entrance.

How about hiding from, as in:

I am hiding from my friends so that I can have some time to myself.

Hide from the Free Dictionary:

To keep oneself out of sight or notice.


To creep, creeping around, or being creepy...

Sentence: "I saw some guy creeping around the water tower the other night."

...just keep it on the down low cause nobody is supposed to know... LOL

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    I downvoted this since I don't see any way this fits. The OP isn't being creepy, just looking to avoid some people or places. – jdf Sep 1 '15 at 23:59
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    I downvoted because of the use of slang and texting acronyms. – Malachi Sep 2 '15 at 20:43

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