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[prahy-vit] /ˈpraɪ vɪt/
belonging to some particular person:
private property.
pertaining to or affecting a particular person or a small group of persons; individual; personal:
for your private satisfaction.
confined to or intended only for the persons immediately concerned; confidential:
a private meeting.
personal and not publicly expressed:
one's private feelings.
not holding public office or employment:
private citizens.
not of an official or public character; unrelated to one's official job or position: a former senator who has returned to private life;
a college president speaking in his private capacity as a legal expert.
removed from or out of public view or knowledge; secret:
private papers.
not open or accessible to the general public:
a private beach.
undertaken individually or personally:
private research.
without the presence of others; alone:
Let's go into another room where we can be private.
solitary; secluded:
He wants to meet us in a more private place.
preferring privacy; retiring:
a very private person.
intimate; most personal:
private behavior.
of, having, or receiving special hospital facilities, privileges, and services, especially a room of one's own and liberal visiting hours:
a private room; a private patient.
of lowest military rank.
of, relating to, or coming from nongovernmental sources:
private funding.
a soldier of one of the three lowest enlisted ranks.
privates, private parts.
in private, not publicly; secretly:
The hearing will be conducted in private.
1350-1400; Middle English < Latin prīvātus private, literally, taken away (from public affairs), special use of past participle of prīvāre to rob. See deprive, -ate1
Related forms
privately, adverb
privateness, noun
quasi-private, adjective
quasi-privately, adverb
unprivate, adjective
unprivately, adverb
unprivateness, noun
2. singular, particular, peculiar. 10. sequestered, retired.
2. general, public. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for private
  • The czar's servants carried the opulent dishes, perfume bottles and other personal items directly to the czar's private chamber.
  • His personal effects were scattered and sealed under lock and key at private residences.
  • private equity partners earn money from their labor, by investing other peoples' money.
  • private parks are springing up all around the world.
  • Never before had a large, populated expanse of private land been converted into a national park.
  • private solar installations are really taking off nationwide.
  • When you think of private security contractors, online comics naturally come to mind.
  • private security firms are increasingly involved in the fight against pirates.
  • Fewer than a hundred of the large carnivores currently roam national and state parks and nearby private lands.
  • They had known each other since eighth grade, sharing the silly private jokes that only longtime pals know.
British Dictionary definitions for private


not widely or publicly known: they had private reasons for the decision
confidential; secret: a private conversation
not for general or public use: a private bathroom
(prenominal) individual; special: my own private recipe
(prenominal) having no public office, rank, etc: a private man
(prenominal) denoting a soldier of the lowest military rank: a private soldier
of, relating to, or provided by a private individual or organization, rather than by the state or a public body: the private sector, private housing
(of a place) retired; sequestered; not overlooked
(of a person) reserved; uncommunicative
in private, in secret; confidentially
a soldier of the lowest rank, sometimes separated into qualification grades, in many armies and marine corps: private first class
Derived Forms
privately, adverb
Word Origin
C14: from Latin prīvātus belonging to one individual, withdrawn from public life, from prīvāre to deprive, bereave
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for private

late 14c., "pertaining or belonging to oneself, not shared, individual; not open to the public;" of a religious rule, "not shared by Christians generally, distinctive; from Latin privatus "set apart, belonging to oneself (not to the state), peculiar, personal," used in contrast to publicus, communis; past participle of privare "to separate, deprive," from privus "one's own, individual," from PIE *prei-wo-, from PIE *prai-, *prei-, from root *per- (1) "forward, through" (see per).

Old English in this sense had syndrig. Private grew popular 17c. as an alternative to common (adj.), which had overtones of condescention. Of persons, "not holding public office," recorded from early 15c. In private "privily" is from 1580s. Related: Privately. Private school is from 1650s. Private parts "the pudenda" is from 1785. Private enterprise first recorded 1797; private property by 1680s; private sector is from 1948. Private eye "private detective" is recorded from 1938, American English.


1590s, "private citizen," short for private person "individual not involved in government" (early 15c.), or from Latin privatus "man in private life," noun use of the adjective; 1781 in the military sense, short for Private soldier "one below the rank of a non-commissioned officer" (1570s), from private (adj.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for private


Related Terms

buck private

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with private


In addition to the idiom beginning with
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Encyclopedia Article for private

in most armies, the lowest grade of enlisted personnel. In the armies of the United States, Germany, and France, a private ranks below a private first class, who in turn ranks below a corporal. In the army of the People's Republic of China, private second class ranks below private first class. The grade equivalent to private in other branches of the armed services in the United States varies; in the U.S. Navy it is seaman, in the U.S. Air Force, airman.

Learn more about private with a free trial on
Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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