In Bengali if you want to say that somebody has a secret love affair with a woman, you say something that translates to drinking water on the sly. What is the proper English idiom for this?

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    Are you looking for an expression that implies a secret love affair or just a secret activity? – user66974 Oct 11 '15 at 13:49
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    There are easily a hundred euphemistic idioms for "getting some on the side". – Hot Licks Oct 11 '15 at 13:50
  • I am looking for an expression, a dialogue using idiom which means somebody was trying to hook up a girl for a romantic relationship, not necessarily sexual at the moment but may end up into it, secretly, without telling even his close friends. Thank you guys for suggestions. – jodhpurpark Oct 13 '15 at 5:26
  • See my answer below - clandestine is frequently used in connection with relationships. – David Blomstrom Dec 23 '15 at 2:28
  • @HotLicks Here's a recent one of the hundreds hiking the Appalachian trail – Mitch Dec 23 '15 at 23:12

You named it, do something on the sly.

on the sly: (Fig) secretly and deceptively: Martin was having an affair with the maid on the sly. (McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs)

Alternately, consider sneak around (with someone) and [do sonething] on the down-low (or DL).

sneak around: do something without someone's knowledge, especially to engage in romantic relationships: I suspect her husband has been sneaking around. I think his wife was sneaking around on him. (The American Heritage Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs)

You snuck around with him all summer and never told me. Not once. Out with some stupid, womanizing football player who would've broken your heart in two if given the chance. (Game for Trouble)

on the down-low: (AmEng, idiomatic, slang, euphemistic) Secretly sleeping with someone other than one's partner.Your Dictionary)

Reportedly, Eddie agreed to end the double dates with LeAnn, but that didn’t stop him from seeing her on the down-low. (Your Tango)

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    I don't think these are idioms. The figurative meanings are almost identical to the literal meanings. – Phil_1984_ Oct 11 '15 at 22:55

A bit on the side

a ​sexual ​relationship with someone who is not ​married to you, or the ​person you have the ​relationship with


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    That doesn't really indicate you're doing it covertly. – Matthew Read Oct 12 '15 at 2:46

To cheat on someone is perhaps the commonest expression. As in: The guys is cheating on his wife.

You can also say "messing around" or "fooling around". The above are phrasal verbs; a more idiomatic expression would be "working late at office".

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    sleeping around too – Tyler Kropp Oct 11 '15 at 15:24

Perhaps behind closed doors: in secret, privately; away from observers, reporters, or intruders, usually in a closed room.


The expression "safe from prying eyes" may fit your context:

  • insistently or impertinently curious or inquisitive.

The Free Dictionary

  • he probably wants to conduct his love affair safe from prying eyes, that is secretly.

Ngram: safe from prying eyes.


Clandestine, as in "They had a clandestine relationship."

  • This is the best "single-word-request"-type answer. But it isn't an "idiom", if that's specifically what the asker is looking for. – Yee-Lum Dec 23 '15 at 2:32

An affair that’s being hidden is often one that is in some way or is for some reason forbidden, so in keeping with the “food and drink” category, “s/he/they is/are eating/tasting/enjoying the forbidden fruit” = “any pleasure or enjoyment regarded as illicit, esp sexual indulgence” (from The Free Dictionary).

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    Forbidden doesn't necessarily deal with doing it covertly – Zach Saucier Oct 11 '15 at 21:15

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