Covet vs covert

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The words covet and covert are very close in pronunciation and are sometimes confused. We will examine the definitions of the words covet and covert, where these two terms came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

To covet something means to have an inordinate desire to possess something, usually something that is owned or controlled by someone else. Someone who covets something has such a strong desire that it may be considered sinful. Most people are familiar with the word covet because it is used several times in the King James Bible when listing the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments is a list of laws given to Moses by God at the time of the Exodus from Egypt: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.” This passage may be found in the Old Testament. The word covet describes a situation in which one does not simply want something, but is obsessed with obtaining that thing. Some synonyms of covet are lusts after, envy, craves. Covet is a transitive verb, which is a verb that takes an object. Related words are covets, coveted, coveting, covetous. The word covet is derived from the French word coveitier which means to lust after or desire inordinately.

Covert describes something that is not out in the open, something that is hidden or concealed. An action that is considered covert is done surreptitiously, behind the scenes. Most people are familiar with the word covert as it is used when describing espionage. For instance, in the United States a CIA agent or CIA operative may go undercover to secretly engage surveillance on subjects who are believed to be dangerous to national security. Such stealthy operations may involve agents who are disguised in some manner or who simply observe the subject while concealed. It is obvious to many that agencies must be careful in these situations to not incur human rights violations. Most countries have some sort of agency that is involved in covert affairs, involving domestic concerns or military operations. In Britain, the agencies are MI6, MI5 and GHCQ. In Germany, the intelligence agency is known as the BND. However, covert is a word that is not only used to describe espionage. Covert may apply to other confidential situations, including an illicit affair. Finally, covert may describe a hiding place, especially a protected place in which wild game can hide. Covert may be used as an adjective or a noun, the adverb form is covertly. Some synonyms for covert are hidden, surreptitious, camouflaged or underhand. The word covert is derived from the Old French word covert which means obscure or hidden.


The Warriors will not have the luxury of height this year, but they will have what any coach would covet, athletes with heart. (The Montgomery Herald)

It’s hard to tell if I’m more frustrated by her incessant need to covet that which she doesn’t have or by her father’s constant willingness to acquiesce. (The Jewish News of Northern California)

He presents a move-in-ready and beautifully detailed home, this time in a coveted Newark neighborhood known for its refreshing breezes that create one of the best Bay Area climates. (The Mercury News)

Embedded onto each of Delaware’s federally compliant identification cards are “covert and personalized” security features – the details of which state officials, citing federal law, will not disclose. (The Delaware News Journal)

The attorney representing Maria Butina, the Russian national accused of serving as a covert agent for Moscow, on Wednesday rejected the government’s claim that she sought to trade sex for a job. (USA Today)