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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."
a writing desk fitted with drawers, one of which can be pulled out and the front lowered to provide a flat writing surface. There are many variations to this basic design. Early versions, which appeared in France in the first half of the 18th century, were made in one piece divided into two sections. The lower section consisted of a cupboard compartment closed in by solid or sliding doors that sometimes concealed a set of drawers; in some cases, however, the drawers were open to view. The upper section included a drop front that, when lowered, provided the writing surface and revealed an inner section fitted with various receptacles (such as pigeonholes, drawers, and recesses) for ink, paper, documents, and the like. Although this type persisted, a number of variations occurred, such as the addition of mirror doors above the upper, drop-front section and, later, the insertion of a space in the lower part of the secretary to accommodate the knees of the writer, the drawers being divided into two sections on either side of the arched recess.