from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Wearing civilian clothes while on duty to avoid being identified as police or security.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective Wearing ordinary civilian clothes instead of a uniform, in order to avoid detection.
  • noun Ordinary civilian clothes, rather than uniform.


Sorry, no etymologies found.


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word plainclothes.


  • Well, Herr Barbour, go down the road in plainclothes and try to get one single black man to shake your hand and come away with a clear notion of who the untermensch is ...

    DNC: Barbour 'defended the indefensible' 2010

  • It's great that she was able to tie up Super Smize's narrative, since half of these girls would have been so confused if they just encountered her in plainclothes without an explanation.

    Taking the boot off 2009

  • They originally met in something called plainclothes school.

    Crusader: The Hell-Raising Police Career of Detective David Durk 1996

  • Like other girls in Oria Province ' s Society, she thrills at the chance to put aside her " plainclothes " for one evening and don a silken gown borrowed from the clothing- distribution center.

    In a Dystopian Romance, a Rebel Heart Stirs MEGHAN COX GURDON 2010

  • Ya gotta love the Batmobile, but for a slightly more realistic take on Bats, the "plainclothes" car can be pretty cool.

    The Batmobile: What a Pain in the Ass David Campbell 2007

  • Lt. Greg Kwiatkowski (his attorney now says he was in "plainclothes") to be honest with you none of this surprises me.

    Political Affairs Magazine 2010

  • Motorcycle officers and special-duty cops such as plainclothes COMMIT officers were also available should things turn ghoulish. : LANCE BENZEL 2009

  • "plainclothes" astronaut simply slides into an empty suit, pulls a lever to close the hatch and detach, and walks away. 2008

  • State television aired images of men in plainclothes burning the building and dancing around the fire on Saturday afternoon.

    Cairo institute burned during clashes 2011

  • At Bahrain University, Shia demonstrators and government supporters held competing protests that descended into violence when plainclothes pro-government backers and security forces forced students blocking the campus main gate to seek refuge in classrooms and lecture halls, the Associated Press reported.

    Saudi Arabian forces prepare to enter Bahrain after day of clashes 2011


Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.