No. "secretive" has a negative connotation; "reserved" usually does not.
When someone is reserved, he/she is quiet, not very forthcoming.
When someone is secretive, he/she is usually hiding something.
Can these words be used interchangably in most contexts? I think 'reserved' suggests some permanent characteristic. I'm not sure though.
No. Reserved means being quiet and unassuming. Secretive means furtively doing something, while not wanting others to know.
Reserved is a personality trait (yes, it can be more permanent). Secretive is an occasional state of mind or necessary mood.
By the way, your instincts are telling you something good. Those who feel or have inklings of the subtle differences in meaning are close to mastering, or at least grasping the language as a whole, and appreciating it as an art of communications and expression.
Last edited by lotus888; 08-May-2014 at 06:14.
Thanks to you both! Strangely enough, I used to think 'reserved' would sometimes refer to a person who's got some information but keeps remaining silent, perhaps because they wouldn't want others to know about it. Say, a student who knows which part of a coursebook some test questions are going to be from, but they prefer not to let others know about it. (So they're being reserved?!) Now I think this is wrong!
Last edited by Mehrgan; 08-May-2014 at 06:49.
Again, your intuition is correct. The student is being more secretive than reserved. We say somebody does something in a reserved manner (quietly and unassumingly). It's not usually because they have something to hide.
This student is actually being possessive of his information. He is being secretive and selfish with his information. There is nothing reserved about his manner. He is actively hiding something. He may seem reserved to others because he won't talk much. But his actions are definitely secretive.
Last edited by lotus888; 08-May-2014 at 06:29.
If the student kept quiet out of shyness, you could could them reserved.