I am looking for help to find incorrect one from the following four sentences:

- The forest was cloaked in darkness.
- The fox was cloaking behind a tree.
- She pulled her cloak tightly around her as she rushed through the streets.
- He used his store as a cloak for his criminal activities.

I need to find the wrong usage of the word "cloak." But every sentence looks correct to me... Google did not give me any clue because all of them are being used.

1. cloaked in darkness (416,000 results)
2. cloaking behind (426 results)
3. cloak around (180,000 results)
4. as a cloak for (235,000 results)

"cloaking behind" is less used but I see people say "something is cloaking behind clouds.", etc.. I am at a loss. All the four sentences look good.

I am using Longman Dictionary. https://www.ldoceonline.com/dictionary/cloak

That page gives me four meanings.

1 [countable] a warm piece of clothing like a coat without sleeves that hangs loosely from your shoulders
2 [singular] an organization, activity, or way of behaving that deliberately protects someone or keeps something secret
1 to deliberately hide facts, feelings etc so that people do not see or understand them – used especially in news reports
2 literary to cover something, for example with darkness or snow

I guess the second sentence is wrong because the first sentence matches verb#1, the second does not match anything, the third matches noun#1 and the last one matches noun#2... But I do see "cloaking behind something" is used in some books although it is less used. Is there any logic or explanation that shows "cloaking behind something" usage is wrong?

  • 3
    Here's a clue: three of them are used over a hundred thousand times. The other is used less than a thousand. Which is likely to be the wrong one?
    – Simon B
    Oct 9, 2018 at 13:28
  • You should use a good dictionary instead of google to check how the word is used. Edit your question with a link to the dictionary (or dictionaries) you are using, and which definition fits each of the sentences. One of the sentences uses the word in a way I didn't find in the first three dictionaries I checked.
    – jejorda2
    Oct 9, 2018 at 13:28
  • 1
    @IanMacDonald the OP is a new contributor. Please be kind and edit your comment to avoid use of the word "cromulent". I understand it's a humorous reference (and I do love The Simpsons), but the word is not listed in M-W or Collins (yet).
    – R Mac
    Oct 9, 2018 at 13:53

1 Answer 1


As for "cloaking behind", the very nature of the phrase breaks the metaphor. Consider a cloak. A cloak is a long article of clothing which is worn over the shoulders and behind the back, often with a hood and sufficiently wide to wrap around the front. Its full coverage lends itself well to the common perception that a cloak can be used for disguise or concealment of one's identity.

An actual cloak is worn, and the way in which it is worn is relevant to appropriate use of the metaphor. You can "cloak yourself [in something]", just as you can "wrap yourself in a cloak [of something]". You can "pull a cloak around yourself" because here, a cloak is a literal cloak (an article of clothing), and of course you can pull one around yourself. The last example, "He used his store as a cloak for his criminal activities," is using "cloak" to as a metaphor for hiding the criminal activities--but the crux here is "as a cloak", a phrase which likens the "store" to a "cloak" in the metaphorical way (a tool for hiding the criminal activities).

With the sentence, "The fox was cloaking behind a tree," the metaphor is broken because you're using "cloaking" as a normal synonym for "hiding". This is subtly incorrect. "Cloaking" is not a synonym for hiding, even in the metaphorical sense: it is a synonym for "something that hides or obscures something else", though the metaphor is more solid still if the thing doing the hiding does so by enveloping the thing being hidden somehow.

  • 1
    Thank you! "Cloaking" is not a synonym for hiding, even in the metaphorical sense: it is a synonym for "something that hides or obscures something else" ==> this is very nice explanation! thank you again!
    – Jihyun
    Oct 9, 2018 at 14:46

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