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.

Origin of 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 formspri·vate·ly, adverbpri·vate·ness, nounqua·si-pri·vate, adjectivequa·si-pri·vate·ly, adverbun·pri·vate, adjectiveun·pri·vate·ly, adverbun·pri·vate·ness, noun

Synonyms for private

2. singular, particular, peculiar. 10. sequestered, retired.

Antonyms for private Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for private

Contemporary Examples of private

Historical Examples of private

  • The morning after his arrival, Artaphernes had a private audience with his royal master.


    Lydia Maria Child

  • In the private car the little party was beginning its own journey Eastward.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • Mr. Davis, may I ask the favor of a few minutes' conversation with you in private?

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

  • Fouts, with a slip of paper in his hand, beckoned him from the door of his private office.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • And noo, Captain Smith, let me say a word in your private ear.

British Dictionary definitions for private



not widely or publicly knownthey had private reasons for the decision
confidential; secreta private conversation
not for general or public usea private bathroom
(prenominal) individual; specialmy own private recipe
(prenominal) having no public office, rank, etca private man
(prenominal) denoting a soldier of the lowest military ranka private soldier
of, relating to, or provided by a private individual or organization, rather than by the state or a public bodythe 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 corpsprivate first class
Derived Formsprivately, adverb

Word Origin for private

C14: from Latin prīvātus belonging to one individual, withdrawn from public life, from prīvāre to deprive, bereave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

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

Idioms and Phrases with private


In addition to the idiom beginning with private

  • private eye

also see:

  • free (private) enterprise
  • in private
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.