Definition of private in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈprʌɪvət/


1Belonging to or for the use of one particular person or group of people only: all bedrooms have private facilities his private plane
More example sentences
  • Darknets are gated communities that run on the Internet but are open only to those who belong to the private network.
  • It's a facility that's widely used and currently caters for several private planes.
  • In fact, in Australia, fewer women belong to private golf clubs now than they did 20 years ago.
personal, one's own, individual, particular, special, exclusive, privately owned
1.1(Of a conversation, activity, or gathering) involving only a particular person or group, and often dealing with matters that are not to be disclosed to others: this is a private conversation a small private service in the chapel
More example sentences
  • We were in the beer garden outside a pub on the Thames, and there was a private function in a sectioned off part of the ‘garden’.
  • Weddings, party nights and private functions already booked will now have to be rearranged.
  • I was once working a private function, and four of us were slammed with about 150 cars arriving at the same time.
confidential, strictly confidential, secret, top secret, classified, unofficial, off the record, not for publication, not to be made public, not to be disclosed, closet;
backstage, offstage, privileged, one-on-one, tête-à-tête;
covert, clandestine, surreptitious;
Latin in camera
informal hush-hush
1.2(Of thoughts and feelings) not to be revealed to others: she felt awkward at intruding on private grief
More example sentences
  • But the murder of the two ten-year-old Soham girls has sent shockwaves of grief far beyond the private agony of their families.
  • It flourishes on the back of faxes and in the margins of copybooks, doodles reveal a billion private boredoms.
  • A source of aggravation could be your temporary inability to sort out intensely private feelings.
intimate, personal, secret;
innermost, inward, unspoken, undeclared, undisclosed, unvoiced, sneaking, hidden
1.3(Of a person) choosing not to reveal their thoughts and feelings to others: he was a very private man
More example sentences
  • She was a private person, often revealing herself more in her drawings than in anything she said.
  • Friends recall him as a private man, a man who did not often reveal his feelings.
  • My mom chooses to be more private, and she lives in the western part of the United States.
reserved, introvert, introverted, self-contained, reticent, discreet, uncommunicative, non-communicative, media-shy, unforthcoming, secretive, retiring, ungregarious, unsocial, unsociable, withdrawn, solitary, insular, reclusive, hermit-like, hermitic
1.4(Of a place) quiet and free from people who may interrupt: can we go somewhere a little more private?
More example sentences
  • As if by instinct, he retreats to the woodshed, a quiet and private place where he sometimes goes just to sit and think.
  • You might also want to designate a quiet, private space where you can dim the lights and play your favorite relaxing music.
  • We didn't go where we normally go; we went out into the country to a little private place.
secluded, secret, quiet, undisturbed, concealed, hidden, remote, isolated, out of the way, sequestered
1.5 [predicative] (Especially of two people) alone and undisturbed by others: we can phone from the library—we’ll be private in there
More example sentences
  • So most of that stuff is just kind of a way for me to be private, and alone, and my daughter rides horses, and my wife does.
  • He needed some private moments alone to reshuffle his current emotions.
  • In the absence of tragedy and terror, they were left undisturbed to create private, coded worlds.
undisturbed, uninterrupted, without disturbance, without interruption;
alone, by ourselves
2(Of a person) having no official or public role or position: the paintings were sold to a private collector
More example sentences
  • If he wants you to act a poor man, a cripple, a public official, or a private person, see that you act it with skill.
  • Future revenue would be paid to private individuals, and public spending would be financed by income tax.
  • Anyone can access it: companies big and small, public institutions and private individuals.
2.1Not connected with one’s work or official position: the ambassador visited the school in a private capacity
More example sentences
  • Gardaí in Killarney stressed they were here in a private capacity and not part of an official Swedish army party.
  • This was so whether or not the accused was abroad on official business or in a private capacity.
  • And he emphasises he is making his comments in his private capacity.
unofficial, personal, non-official, non-public
3(Of a service or industry) provided or owned by an individual or an independent, commercial company rather than the state: this research was carried out by private industry
More example sentences
  • But more business doctoral grads are entering private industry rather than academia.
  • In fact this was nothing more than a way of deflecting criticism away from the state while at the same time providing profits for private industry.
  • So it turned to private industry to provide the extra manpower needed to implement the program.
independent, non-state-controlled, non-state-run, privatized, denationalized, non-public, commercial, private-enterprise
3.1(Of education or medical treatment) conducted outside the state system and charging fees to those who make use of it: private education if I could afford it I’d go private
More example sentences
  • Both also have private practices and perform infertility treatment at the private Assuta Hospital and Herzliya Medical Centre.
  • NHS treatment is attractive to patients because the charges are lower than private treatment, sometimes significantly.
  • Should you stay in the public system or go private with your medical insurance?
3.2Relating to or denoting a transaction between individuals and not involving commercial organizations: it was a private sale—no estate agent’s commission
More example sentences
  • Since opening in March, the home has mostly relied on private donations from charitable organizations.
  • It's a private transaction between me and the landlord/ landlady/ shopowner.
  • Many charters served simply to confirm previous charters, judgements or private transactions.


1The lowest rank in the army, below lance corporal or private first class.
Example sentences
  • He enlisted in the Army in 1980 and was first assigned as a young private as a supply clerk in Germany.
  • Abroad, the death of an army private has been followed by the murder of five innocent civilians.
  • Even a third class pilot had more power than a private in the army.
private soldier, common soldier;
infantryman, foot soldier, trooper;
British  sapper, ranker;
in the US GI, enlisted man;
French poilu;
Indian  jawan
British informal Tommy, squaddie, Tommy Atkins
North American informal grunt, buck private
Australian/New Zealand informal digger
South African informal troopie
archaic swad, swaddy
2 (privates) informal short for private parts.
Example sentences
  • I think I'd actually rather flash my privates than appear in public in creased clothing.
  • Obviously, naming our privates is a matter of personal taste.
  • ‘Hey, gimme that,’ says the second kid protecting his privates.


in private

With no one else present: I’ve got to talk to you in private
More example sentences
  • The judge was today hearing a bail application on Colin's behalf in private.
  • There is even a coffee table and two armchairs if you want to chat with your girlfriend in private.
  • Rome has an obsession with secrecy - a lot goes on in private but it need not.
in secret, secretly, in secrecy, privately, behind closed doors, in camera, with no one else present;
in confidence, confidentially, between ourselves, off the record;
Latin sub rosa;
French entre nous, à huis clos


Late Middle English (originally denoting a person not acting in an official capacity): from Latin privatus 'withdrawn from public life', a use of the past participle of privare 'bereave, deprive', from privus 'single, individual'.

  • Someone who is private has literally ‘withdrawn from public life’ and is acting as an ordinary citizen—that is the meaning of the Latin root, from privare ‘to bereave, deprive’ from privus ‘single, individual’. It is also the root of deprive (Middle English), privilege (Middle English), and privation (Middle English). In the army privates are ordinary soldiers as opposed to officers. They were originally, from the 1570s, private soldiers. Privates meaning ‘the genitals’ is first recorded in around 1450. Back in the 13th century privy, which is from the same root, meant ‘belonging to your own private circle’. The meaning ‘a lavatory’ is as old and comes from the idea of this being a private place.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: pri|vate

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