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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.
Origin of secretary
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. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for secretary
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • "We have begun by being frank; we should continue so," said the secretary presently.

    Before the Dawn Joseph Alexander Altsheler
  • The secretary's letter remained unanswered for several days.

    Still Jim Honor Willsie Morrow
  • No secretary cherished the delusion that he was running the Province.

    A Civil Servant in Burma Herbert Thirkel White
  • About five o'clock he started off to call on Pen, and tell her about the secretary's letter.

    Still Jim Honor Willsie Morrow
  • The secretary was no more fortunate with his dinner partner.

    Parlous Times David Dwight Wells
British Dictionary definitions for secretary


/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 secretary

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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