The hidden purpose can be selfish or not. He or she is involved in something to ensure their purpose is fulfilled.

Example : She joined our group to help us. She has no _____.

He will only join us in this quest if he has ____.

Or am I asking too much and should settle for hidden purpose ?

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    "Ulterior motive"
    – Ste
    Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 12:03
  • 2
    @Ste That would have been my answer; perhaps you should make that an answer? :)
    – Ghotir
    Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 13:19
  • I was on a teleconference when I commented with that answer as I didn't have time to write an answer. Happy for @Rathony to take the points on that. :)
    – Ste
    Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 13:21
  • 1
    a horse in this race, a vested interest - but those are not necessarily hidden. Some of your sentences do not seem to apply to a (necessarily) hidden interest.
    – Drew
    Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 14:29
  • 1
    @Ste I guess I am lucky thanks to your teleconference. :-)
    – user140086
    Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 14:31

9 Answers 9


Consider using hidden agenda:

An undisclosed plan, especially one with an ulterior motive.

[American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition]

As @Phil Sweet commented, you could also consider using "personal agenda" or just "agenda". I've just found a related question, Meaning of “have an agenda”.

  • 2
    Also personal agenda, which might be a tad less suspicious sounding in this context
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 13:49
  • 2
    I like how the definition quotes another candidate term, ulterior motive, which was the 1st one I thought of... making this sort of two answers in one, and the dictionary oddly self-referential. Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 14:28

Consider ulterior motive:

If you say that someone has an ulterior motive for doing something, you believe that they have a hidden reason for doing it ⇒ Sheila had an ulterior motive for trying to help Stan.


Secret intention or hidden ploy.

This is what happens when a hidden ploy is unveiled; it can never work the same way again, and can never have the same meaning or payoff for the perpetrator (The New Way to Compete: How to Be a Winner in Your Career and in Your Life, Harry A. Olson, excerpt on G. Books)


Angle at (something)TFD

verb To plan or scheme to get or achieve something; to try to get something in an indirect or roundabout way. (Usually used in the continuous tense.)

"We've been angling at securing a contract with a major development company from the Middle East for the last few months."
"What exactly are you angling at? If it's a pay raise, you can just forget about it."


noun 2. a scheme or deception; a pivotal or critical feature of a scheme; the gimmick in a scheme or plot.

"I got a new angle to use in a con job on the old guy."

  • 1
    The use of angle, in your first sense, is essentially unknown in the US, except in a few idioms. And in any context where you attempted to use the second, most people would interpret the word to mean "direction". In fact "a new angle" is an idiom meaning "an new direction", and no deceit is implied.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 14:07
  • 2
    @HotLicks I see. But I have heard it a lot.. in movies and TV series, especially those crime and CSI kind. :)
    – NVZ
    Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 14:10
  • 1
    And when you hear it, the meaning is "an new approach" or "a new direction", or perhaps "a new piece of information". "Frank, I have a new angle on the Smith case."
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 14:18
  • @HotLicks Not at all. See the link I have cited. You are talking about sense 1. I have quoted sense 2 and only sense 2. (McGraw-Hill')
    – NVZ
    Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 14:20
  • I for one heard it so much as a non-native speaker that I would have added it as my own answer if it had not been already.
    – Nigralbus
    Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 14:20

Hidden agenda Is the phrase I would use in this context, but I think it has negative connotations, so I wouldn't use it in a positive or neutral setting.


I searched Google for Definition of Agenda.
Here is their third case:
the underlying intentions or motives of a particular person or group. "Miller has his own agenda and it has nothing to do with football"

  • Intentions being "underlying" doesn't mean they're hidden. hidden agenda, OTOH... Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 20:47

Along with the answers already provided, I believe insidious fits the bill for your definition:

insidious: stealthily treacherous or deceitful; operating or proceeding in an inconspicuous or seemingly harmless way but actually with grave effect.



I cant seem to find standard references, maybe because this is a relatively new word. But anyway, looks like this is the only single word answer.

Ref: wikitionary, Urban Dictionary

Edit: Sorry, did not see the 'insidious' entry.




(of an action) convenient and practical although possibly improper or immoral.

a means of attaining an end, especially one that is convenient but possibly improper or immoral.

  • 1
    Welcome to English Language and Usage. "Expedient" as a noun does not seem to fit the question.I would put some more thought to this.
    – J. Taylor
    Commented Jan 27, 2019 at 4:07
  • If you quote someone else's words, it's essential that you make this clear (eg using quotation marks or blockquote formatting) and acknowledge the source. It's not only polite to give the original author credit, it also avoids the more serious charge of plagiarism. I've edited your post accordingly, but please include correct attribution in future :-) Commented Jan 27, 2019 at 7:44

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