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[sek-ri-ter-ee] /ˈsɛk rɪˌtɛr i/
noun, plural secretaries.
a person, usually an official, who is in charge of the records, correspondence, minutes of meetings, and related affairs of an organization, company, association, etc.:
the secretary of the Linguistic Society of America.
a person employed to handle correspondence and do routine work in a business office, usually involving taking dictation, typing, filing, and the like.
(often initial capital letter) an officer of state charged with the superintendence and management of a particular department of government, as a member of the president's cabinet in the U.S.:
Secretary of the Treasury.
Also called diplomatic secretary. a diplomatic official of an embassy or legation who ranks below a counselor and is usually assigned as first secretary, second secretary, or third secretary.
a piece of furniture for use as a writing desk.
Also called secretary bookcase. a desk with bookshelves on top of it.
1350-1400; Middle English secretarie one trusted with private or secret matters; confidant < Medieval Latin sēcrētārius < Latin sēcrēt(um) secret (noun) + -ārius -ary
Related forms
secretaryship, noun
subsecretary, noun, plural subsecretaries.
subsecretaryship, noun
undersecretaryship, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for secretaries
  • The two secretaries who work in the outer office are less understanding.
  • He talked to every employee, from the secretaries to the nurses to the doctors.
  • Most commerce secretaries cannot be forgotten because the public never learned their names in the first place.
  • He expected his girlfriends and wives to serve as maids and secretaries.
  • Chief constables are essentially accountable to home secretaries.
  • Since then it has been the field of secretaries of defence and energy.
  • Four of the president's private secretaries are being investigated for enriching themselves illegally.
  • In the countryside, party secretaries routinely take part in religious ceremonies.
  • They resigned from their jobs as parliamentary private secretaries.
  • In one experiment, clinical psychologists did no better than their secretaries in their diagnoses.
British Dictionary definitions for secretaries


/ˈsɛkrətrɪ; -ərɪ/
noun (pl) -taries
a person who handles correspondence, keeps records, and does general clerical work for an individual, organization, etc
the official manager of the day-to-day business of a society or board
(in Britain) a senior civil servant who assists a government minister
(in the US and New Zealand) the head of a government administrative department
(in Britain) See secretary of state (sense 1)
(in Australia) the head of a public service department
(diplomacy) the assistant to an ambassador or diplomatic minister of certain countries
another name for secretaire
Derived Forms
secretarial (ˌsɛkrɪˈtɛərɪəl) adjective
secretaryship, noun
Word Origin
C14: from Medieval Latin sēcrētārius, from Latin sēcrētum something hidden; see secret
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 secretaries



late 14c., "person entrusted with secrets," from Medieval Latin secretarius "clerk, notary, confidential officer, confidant," a title applied to various confidential officers, noun use of adjective meaning "private, secret, pertaining to private or secret matters" (cf. Latin secretarium "a council-chamber, conclave, consistory"), from Latin secretum "a secret, a hidden thing" (see secret (n.)).

Meaning "person who keeps records, write letters, etc.," originally for a king, first recorded c.1400. As title of ministers presiding over executive departments of state, it is from 1590s. The word also is used in both French and English to mean "a private desk," sometimes in French form secretaire. The South African secretary bird so called (1786) in reference to its crest, which, when smooth, resembles a pen stuck over the ear. Cf. Late Latin silentiarius "privy councilor, 'silentiary," from Latin silentium "a being silent."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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