pri·​vate | \ˈprī-vət \

Definition of private 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a : intended for or restricted to the use of a particular person, group, or class a private park

b : belonging to or concerning an individual person, company, or interest a private house

c(1) : restricted to the individual or arising independently of others private opinion

(2) : carried on by the individual independently of the usual institutions a doctor in private practice also : being educated by independent study or a tutor or in a private school private students

d : not general in effect a private statute

e : of, relating to, or receiving hospital service in which the patient has more privileges than a semiprivate or ward patient

2a(1) : not holding public office or employment a private citizen

(2) : not related to one's official position : personal private correspondence

b : being a private

3a : withdrawn from company or observation a private retreat

b : not known or intended to be known publicly : secret

c : preferring to keep personal affairs to oneself : valuing privacy highly

d : unsuitable for public use or display

4 : not having shares that can be freely traded on the open market a private company



Definition of private (Entry 2 of 2)

1 archaic : one not in public office

2 obsolete : privacy

3 privates plural : private parts

4a : a person of low rank in any of various organizations (such as a police or fire department)

b : an enlisted person of the lowest rank in the marine corps or of one of the two lowest ranks in the army

in private

: not openly or in public

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Other Words from private


privately adverb
privateness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for private

Synonyms: Adjective

behind-the-scenes, confidential, esoteric, hushed, hush-hush, inside, intimate, nonpublic, privy, secret

Antonyms: Adjective

common, open, public

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Examples of private in a Sentence


It was the first time many had seen works from the artist's private collection. At work he was always very serious, but in his private life, he was actually very funny and relaxed. Please keep all my personal information private. He's a very private person.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Roy Rochlin/Getty Images President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama are famous for keeping the details of their personal life private. Julia Belluz, Vox, "Why Michelle Obama’s revelation that she had a miscarriage and did IVF matters," 9 Nov. 2018 Gender-bias issues in the unit have been kept private in the past. Emily Glazer, WSJ, "Wells Fargo Ends Investigation Over Bias Against Women," 9 Nov. 2018 However, like everyone else, trans people want to keep their personal lives private. SELF, "How to Make Your Gym or Fitness Space More Inclusive and Welcoming for Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming People," 30 Oct. 2018 Since 1950, Jamaica Inn in beautiful Ocho Rios has welcomed guests like family to an intimate tropical setting on its own pristine private beach. Condé Naste Traveler: Post, "Free Nights This Summer!," 26 Oct. 2018 Currently the daughter of Princess Caroline is eleventh in line to the Monaco throne, although she is considered a private citizen. Vogue, "Is 2018 Officially the Year of the Royal Baby? Charlotte Casiraghi Reportedly Gives Birth," 23 Oct. 2018 Taylor Swift has built a career on writing deeply personal song lyrics about her relationships, friendships, reputation, and more—but there's one aspect of her personal life she's always kept private: her political opinions. Anna Moeslein, Glamour, "Taylor Swift Just Made a Rare Political Statement," 7 Oct. 2018 Not until the technology is good enough to ensure the votes are kept private and aren’t tampered with. Rachel Becker, The Verge, "Experts warn against voting online, call for paper ballots instead," 7 Sep. 2018 But recommendations in the new bike plan could potentially be funded by the city’s 1-cent sales tax for capital improvements, federal grants and public/private partnerships like the one that made the Indiana Cultural Trail possible. Sarah Gish, kansascity, "Will Kansas City ever be bike-friendly? The city is about to roll out a plan," 13 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Torres is a private, though, and privates without sufficient training can’t walk the cyber school grounds by themselves. Matt Gallagher, WIRED, "Army of 01101111: The Making of a Cyber Battalion," 27 Mar. 2018 The company already has specialized local offices servicing wealthy clients, home, student, business and consumer loans like its Philadelphia private-banking office, but has not built an area retail branch network up until now. Joseph N. Distefano,, "JPMorgan Chase plans new branches in Philly and beyond," 11 Apr. 2018 Though Spotify’s intentions were lauded, many have questioned its moral authority to punish acts for conduct in their privates lives. Fortune, "Facing a Rebellion, Spotify Is Said to Rethink Policy on Artist Misconduct," 26 May 2018 Avoiding any hierarchy of prestige or loss, privates take their place alongside generals and national heroes. Isabel Kershner, New York Times, "In Memorial to War Dead, Israel Avoids Addressing Its Conflicts," 16 Apr. 2018 So in the show ring, Max gets all glassy-eyed and thinks of fireworks and flowers and dancing with Arnett as the show judge inspects his privates. Lisa Gutierrez, kansascity, "Parents say 'Show Dogs' movie grooms kids for sexual abuse. Now those scenes are cut | The Kansas City Star," 24 May 2018 Everyone else would sext you their privates for a fleeting feeling of human connection. Antonio García Martínez, WIRED, "How Facebook Binds, and Shatters, Communities," 11 May 2018 In 2010, Manning, an Army private, contacted Mr. Lamo via instant message. Jeffery C. Mays,, "Adrian Lamo, 37, hacker who reported Chelsea Manning to the FBI," 19 Mar. 2018 Through its doors have walked privates and generals, seamen and admirals, Congressional Medal of Honor recipients, Purple Heart recipients, veterans of WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Naperville Sun, "Letters to the editor: VFW post more than just a building, Bibbiano has qualifications for DuPage sheriff," 15 Mar. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'private.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of private


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for private


Middle English privat, from Anglo-French, from Latin privatus, from past participle of privare to deprive, release, from privus private, individual; probably akin to Latin pro for, in front of — more at for

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Statistics for private

Last Updated

14 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for private

The first known use of private was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for private



English Language Learners Definition of private

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: for the use of a single person or group : belonging to one person or group : not public

: not relating to a person's official position or job

: not known by the public or by other people



English Language Learners Definition of private (Entry 2 of 2)

: a person of the lowest rank in the U.S. or British Army or the U.S. Marines


pri·​vate | \ˈprī-vət \

Kids Definition of private

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : having to do with or for the use of a single person or group : not public private property

2 : not holding any public office a private citizen

3 : secret entry 1 sense 1 private meetings

Other Words from private

privately adverb



Kids Definition of private (Entry 2 of 2)

: an enlisted person of the lowest rank in the marine corps or of either of the two lowest ranks in the army


pri·​vate | \ˈprī-vət \

Medical Definition of private 

1 : of, relating to, or receiving hospital service in which the patient has more privileges than a semiprivate or ward patient

2 : of, relating to, or being private practice a private office a private practitioner

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Legal Definition of private 

1a : intended for or restricted to the use of a particular person or group or class of persons : not available to the public a private park

b : not related to, controlled by, or deriving from the state a private school

2a : owned by or concerning an individual person or entity private land

b : not having shares that can be freely traded on the open market a private company

3 : affecting the interests of a particular person, class or group of persons, or locality private legislation private rights

4a : not invested with or engaged in public office or employment a private citizen

b : not related to or dependent on an official position private correspondence

5 : not known publicly or carried on in public especially : intended only for the persons involved

6 : made under private signature a private instrument

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Comments on private

What made you want to look up private? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


playful or foolish behavior

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