Cloak and Dagger

Meanings of “Cloak and Dagger”‎

The phrase “cloak and dagger” means something that is intriguing involving killing, espionage as well as battles. The phrase is often used in a dramatic context.

Origin of “Cloak and Dagger”‎

The phrase “cloak and dagger” originated from the Spanish language. It was used in English for the first time in The Derby Mercury, a paper, in its publication of July 1469. There it goes thus;…and those that endeavor to dissolve, carry a dagger under the cloak of patriotism, to stab their country in the heart.” However, Charles Dicken has used it in his novel Barnaby Ridge in its present form where it goes thus:

“It was given to him by a person then waiting at the door, the man replied.
‘With a cloak and dagger?’ said Mr. Chester.”

Examples in Literature

Example #1‎

The Cloak And Dagger Lady by Suelynn Walters

She’ll catch her spell so watch it
I refuse to believe in this I do
They warn me over and over
I laugh and tell them this isn’t true
The Dagger And Cloak Lady
She gazes at me with a squint eye
Mumbles some words she recites
I feel her energy building up high
And now I will no longer deny
The Dagger And Cloak Lady

After involving in some sort of love or relationship, the poet feels that the public uproar about the lady that she is a cloak and dagger lady seems to be true as he can hear rumors about it. The poet shows the use of the phrase three times; once its title and two times within the text. However, the meanings are not only denotative and literal but also straightforward. They show that the lady is dangerous and involved in some intrigue.

Example #2‎

Cloak & Dagger by Black Sabbath

I remember the burning I felt inside
As you touched my frozen heart
I remember the screams and the pain within
As my soul was torn apart
I recall being hungry
And for years I stood my ground
Even though you were never, oh no never, never around
God, how I needed you
I remember they warned me, and oh how they told me
Yours was the kiss of shame
I remember the Devil coming to steal my soul again and again
I remember the dawn was breaking
In Cathedrals of unholy light
I was searching for answers where singers and dancers
Will travel on through the night
I’ve been hurt by Evil games
First you’re here and then you aint
Cloak and dagger, yeah, yeah yeah
Cloak and dagger

These lines not only present the unrequited love but also shed light on the way that the singer is feeling betrayed. The beloved does not return to him and he remembers that he has been looking for answers for this betrayal. By the end of these lines, he reminds her that these manners are tantamount to cloak and dagger habits. Therefore, the phrase has been repeated in the last two lines for impacts.

Example #3‎

The Cloak and Dagger Cook: A CIA Memoir by Kay Shaw Nelson

I have long maintained that good food and drink go hand and glove with the spying business. Looking back, I have never met a spy for whom a taste of secrecy and intrigue did not whet an appetite for culinary entertainment. Thus, the Cloak and Dagger Dinner program fascinated me and I was happy to assist by creating a menu.

This excerpt occurs in the book of May Shaw Nelson about his work in the CIA, a prime American intelligence agency. He shows that he has done his work as a cloak and dagger program in a way that they seem real work but actually they were espionage activities. The phrase is used with literal meaning.

Example #4‎

You’re Stepping on My Cloak and Dagger by Roger Hall

Roger Hall has worked as an OSS during WWII. He has recounted his espionage tales in this book in detail. As it was published in 1957, it has, so far, proved a very handy book about intelligence communities working in WWII. Not only he has gone through tedious JCO training but has also met success even in the OSS circle abroad. Almost all of his achievements have been amalgamated with fun and humor. Therefore, the cloak and dagger phrase has been inserted in the title to show this side of his life.

Example in Sentences

Example #1‎: “James is just narrating a cloak and dagger story by adding his own version to the adventure. In truth, it is simply a story and nothing else.”

Example #2‎: “His story is like a cloak and dagger story of some spy working in the field.”

Example #3‎: “Whenever I have tried to stop him from doing these things, he always comes up with a long cloak and dagger story that does not suit the situation.”

Example #4‎: Brienstein has proved that his story is a cloak and dagger though he has not used any violence or gory themes in the story.

Example #5‎: “He likes to narrate a cloak and dagger story, but the problem is that he knows nothing about it.”


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