Definition of public in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈpəblik/


1Of or concerning the people as a whole: public concern public affairs
More example sentences
  • Mr Fitzgerald said the right of the press and the public to know matters of legitimate public concern was recognised.
  • The trust recognised public concern but did not have any grounds to object to the trial.
  • He is bound to recognise the acute public concern rightly aroused where deaths occur in custody.
popular, general, common, communal, collective, shared, joint, universal, widespread
1.1Open to or shared by all the people of an area or country: a public library
More example sentences
  • A number of local residents have put forward proposals to make the wooded public area a greater amenity for villagers.
  • The ration of half an hour per week or fortnight is simply not enough and this should not be a case of finance but it should be in the area of public amenity.
  • Residents in Redvales angered over plans to build a new nursery in the area held a public meeting on Monday.
open (to the public), communal, accessible to all, available, free, unrestricted, community
1.2Of or provided by the government rather than an independent, commercial company: public benefits
More example sentences
  • This time the SNP is emphasising better public services rather than the cost of delivering them.
  • We want to end privatisation and bring services back into public ownership.
  • Money, I may add, that could have been spent on improving public services.
state, national, federal, government;
constitutional, civic, civil, official, social, municipal, community, communal, local;
1.3Of or involved in the affairs of the community, especially in government: his public career was destroyed by tenacious reporters
More example sentences
  • More and more of my students seek careers in lobbying and public affairs from the get go.
  • She'd say she turned her back on a public career very deliberately.
  • And second, the public career of one of the country's most formidable politicians.
prominent, well known, important, leading, eminent, distinguished, notable, noteworthy, noted, celebrated, household, famous, famed, influential, major-league
1.4Known to many people; famous: a public figure
2Done, perceived, or existing in open view: he wanted a public apology in the Wall Street Journal we should talk somewhere less public
More example sentences
  • He seems to have a strategy, but it is one that he does not seem to have laid open for public view and debate.
  • Which soap actor made a public apology for exposing himself on the internet?
  • It is the attempt to exclude such views from acceptable public discourse that is anti-democratic.
known, published, publicized, in circulation, exposed, overt, plain, obvious
3British Of, for, or acting for a university: public examination results
More example sentences
  • In fact public universities, as a result, have had to raise their tuitions dramatically.
  • In the public universities the government is planning to impose fees on students.
  • Like most public institutions the university has not escaped the effects of neo-liberalism.


(the public) [treated as singular or plural]
1Ordinary people in general; the community: the library is open to the public the public has made an informed choice
More example sentences
  • Many experts have thus given up the attempt to communicate with the general public.
  • The course is suitable and worthwhile for all members of the general public.
  • The final phase of the project will consist of competitions open to the general public.
people, citizens, subjects, general public, electors, electorate, voters, taxpayers, residents, inhabitants, citizenry, population, populace, community, society, country, nation, world;
1.1 [with adjective or noun modifier] A section of the community having a particular interest or connection: the reading public
More example sentences
  • The American viewing public's interest is a powerful force in the future of the Games.
  • Frankly, it may be complex to give a round up of all this to the French reading public, but we hope to be able to do that.
  • The Victorian reading public had an insatiable appetite for this kind of fiction.
1.2 (one's public) The people who watch or are interested in an artist, writer, or performer: some famous last words to give my public
More example sentences
  • It's a strange but pleasant feeling, meeting one's public for the first time.
  • I descend to greet my public at 11 pm and am able to scrutinize at least 6 different chins and sets of grinning teeth at close quarters.
  • Suddenly, as if on cue, he straightened his shoulders and walked downstage to greet his public.
audience, spectators, followers, following, fans, devotees, aficionados, admirers;
patrons, clientele, market, consumers, buyers, customers, readers, viewers, listeners



go public

1Become a public company.
Example sentences
  • And not only are more money-losing companies going public, initial valuations can be distinctly frothy.
  • For others, it means going public and answering to shareholders.
  • There is the potential to grow rapidly, and if you do, getting bought out or going public are distinct possibilities.
2Reveal details about a previously private concern: Bates went public with the news at a press conference
More example sentences
  • Over the past few days, since I went public with my complaints concerning the casino, I have been swamped with phone calls regarding the actions I took.
  • Coalition MPs were briefed at a special meeting called just before the Prime Minister went public with his plans to strengthen counter-terrorism laws.
  • And people are wondering why I went public with this!

in public

In view of other people; when others are present: men don’t cry in public
More example sentences
  • You expect to be ticked off from time to time if you venture your views in public.
  • So we were not used to seeing strong men crying in public, and not at all sure how to react when we did.
  • He is not seen much in public these days and his views on the situation are not known.
publicly, in full view of people, openly, in the open, for all to see, undisguisedly, blatantly, flagrantly, brazenly, overtly

the public eye

The state of being known or of interest to people in general, especially through the media: the pressures of being constantly in the public eye
More example sentences
  • You don't have to be a politician or a person in the public eye to gain media attention.
  • She urged celebrities and people in the public eye not to wear fur as this can lead to fashion trends being set.
  • But it is time now to draw back from treating him as a public spectacle and let him fight his demons out of the public eye.


Late Middle English: from Old French, from Latin publicus, blend of poplicus 'of the people' (from populus 'people') and pubes 'adult'.

  • The root of public, Latin publicus, is shared by publish (Middle English) ‘to make public’ and republic (late 16th century) Latin res public ‘the business of the people’, and is related to people. People have been able to go to a public house for a drink since the 1650s, and to the abbreviated pub since around 1800. In Australia they could also stay the night—there a pub can also be a hotel. The first publicans were collectors of taxes (collectors of the public revenue), not sellers of drinks. This explains the disparaging references to them in various biblical passages, such as: ‘And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?’ (Gospel of Matthew). The use of the term to refer to a person who manages a pub dates from the early 18th century. In North America and elsewhere public schools are schools supported by public funds and open to all, and people often wonder why English public schools, which are private, fee-paying, and independent, are so called. In England a public school, a term first recorded in 1580, was originally a grammar school founded for the benefit of the public, as opposed to a private school run for the profit of its owner. Such schools were open to all and took resident students from beyond their local neighbourhood. The passing of the Public Schools Act in 1868 to regulate the large, long-established schools of Eton, Winchester, Westminster, Harrow, Rugby, Charterhouse, Shrewsbury, Merchant Taylors’, and St Paul's, led to the term becoming a prestigious one which was also applied to newer schools. The source of the saying any publicity is good publicity appears to be a passage by Raymond Chandler, in the Black Mask (1933): ‘Rhonda Farr said: “Publicity, darling. Just publicity. Any kind is better than none at all.” ’ An alternative form is there's no such thing as bad publicity.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: pub·lic

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