priv·​i·​lege | \ ˈpriv-lij How to pronounce privilege (audio) , ˈpri-və- \

Definition of privilege

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a right or immunity granted as a peculiar benefit, advantage, or favor : prerogative especially : such a right or immunity attached specifically to a position or an office


privileged; privileging

Definition of privilege (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to grant a privilege to
2 : to accord a higher value or superior position to privilege one mode of discourse over another

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms & Antonyms for privilege

Synonyms: Noun

Synonyms: Verb

Antonyms: Verb

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of privilege in a Sentence

Noun It is evolving into an elite institution, open chiefly to the well-educated few. In short, marriage is becoming yet another form of privilege. — Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, Commonweal, 2 Dec. 2005 The oldest of the students, she had become a confidante of Fern's and she alone was allowed to call her by her first name. It was not a privilege the others coveted. — Edward P. Jones, The Known World, 2003 But the two were grown in the same petri dish of power, prep school and privilege. — Howard Fineman, Newsweek, 16 Oct. 2000 Good health care should be a right and not a privilege. We had the privilege of being invited to the party. I had the privilege of knowing your grandfather. He lived a life of wealth and privilege. Verb The new tax laws unfairly privilege the rich. only professionals who meet the education and experience requirements set by law are privileged to use the title “interior designer” in Oklahoma
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun This is quite common under American law because the duties and privileges of a President and a private citizen are not the same. NBC News, "Giuliani sought private meeting with Ukrainian president, documents show," 15 Jan. 2020 This could mean extending the privilege of hosting debates to a more diverse range of outlets, having more single-topic debates, or a creating a more transparent and inclusive process for picking the questions. Libby Watson, The New Republic, "CNN Unleashes Another Exercise in Diminishing Marginal Utility," 15 Jan. 2020 Soon thereafter, the Academy drastically backtracked, explicitly restoring the notion of lifetime voting privileges for many members and excluding retirement as grounds for non-voting status. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, "How to Make the Oscars Relevant Again," 15 Jan. 2020 But Kuechly, while valuing the privilege of playing his boyhood game at the highest level, values health and long-term quality of life even more. Mike Jones, USA TODAY, "Opinion: Luke Kuechly retirement continues NFL trend. Good for him, and for fellow players," 15 Jan. 2020 Bill Clinton made similar privilege claims but lost in court. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Pelosi’s Impeachment Offenses," 15 Jan. 2020 My research looks at how Indian business elites use their money and explains both how their life is structured around luxury and privilege and marred by anxieties of class, money and race. Parul Bhandari, Quartz India, "How Delhi’s super-rich housewives strive to be part of a global elite," 9 Jan. 2020 The debate over whether education of gifted children segregates them on the basis of pre-existing privilege rather than cognitive ability is neither new nor uniquely American. The Economist, "The dignity of all the talents A battle over gifted education is brewing in America," 9 Jan. 2020 But the idea that such privileges might be under threat from incomers, either Hindu or Muslim, has now made Assam fertile ground for the BJP’s anti-Muslim drum-beat. Joseph Allchin, The New York Review of Books, "Why Hindu Nationalists Trialed India’s Citizenship Law in Assam," 6 Jan. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Judd’s lawyer argued that Judd’s admissions to her counselor were privileged; the trial court disagreed and said Jones’ could testify against her client. oregonlive, "Appeals court overturns manslaughter conviction of Bend woman who smothered grandmother," 27 Dec. 2019 There is also, of course, no guarantee that the applicant taking the legacy’s spot is not also privileged. Louis Menand, The New Yorker, "Is Meritocracy Making Everyone Miserable?," 23 Sep. 2019 The company had said the documents produced by that probe, sought by the SFO, were privileged. Samuel Rubenfeld, WSJ, "U.K. Appeals Court Reverses Ruling Narrowing Attorney-Client Privilege," 6 Sep. 2018 That group, known as a taint team, would then do their own review of the remaining materials to determine which were privileged. Alan Feuer, New York Times, "Judge Orders Document Review in Cohen Case to End Next Week," 26 June 2018 Debt relief would rain down on graduates who are themselves privileged enough to take entry-level jobs in high-status fields for the promise of delayed rewards. Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review, "Warren’s Socialism for the Upper-Middle Class Is Awful — and Conservatives Need a Better Alternative," 25 Oct. 2019 After his expected high school graduation that spring or summer of 2017, Barnes was to spend a year in the House of Correction, with work release privileges for the last three months. Bruce Vielmetti, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Driver on probation for double fatal crash cited for speeding, no valid license," 27 Nov. 2019 This development paved the way in 1980 for then-President Deng Xiaoping to label Shenzhen a Special Economic Zone (SEZ), granting the city privileged economic status for foreign trade and investment. Grady Mcgregor, Fortune, "Separated by 15 Minutes—and a Great Firewall: How Hong Kong and Shenzhen Are Drifting Apart," 22 Nov. 2019 Too often geographic displacement narrows the comprehensive record of a place, privileging certain people with the final word on what is deemed history. Lauren Leblanc, The Atlantic, "How to Write the Book No One Wants You to Write," 25 Sep. 2019

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

See More

First Known Use of privilege


12th century, in the meaning defined above


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for privilege

Noun and Verb

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin privilegium law for or against a private person, from privus private + leg-, lex law

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about privilege

Time Traveler for privilege

Time Traveler

The first known use of privilege was in the 12th century

See more words from the same century

Statistics for privilege

Last Updated

19 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Privilege.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 22 January 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for privilege


How to pronounce privilege (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of privilege

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a right or benefit that is given to some people and not to others
: a special opportunity to do something that makes you proud
somewhat formal : the advantage that wealthy and powerful people have over other people in a society



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

formal : to give an advantage that others do not have to (someone or something)


priv·​i·​lege | \ ˈpri-və-lij How to pronounce privilege (audio) \

Kids Definition of privilege

1 : a right or liberty granted as a favor or benefit especially to some and not others
2 : an opportunity that is special and pleasant I had the privilege of meeting the president.



Legal Definition of privilege

1 : a right, license, or exemption from duty or liability granted as a special benefit, advantage, or favor: as
a : an exemption from liability where an action is deemed to be justifiable (as in the case of self-defense) or because of the requirements of a position or office also : the affirmative defense that an action is privileged — compare excuse
absolute privilege
: a privilege that exempts a person from liability especially for defamation regardless of intent or motive specifically : a privilege that exempts high public officials (as legislators) from liability for statements made while acting in their official capacity without regard to intent or malice
qualified privilege
: a privilege especially in the law of defamation that may be defeated especially by a showing of actual malice

called also conditional privilege

b : an exemption from a requirement to disclose information (as for trial) that is granted because of a relationship or position that demands confidentiality the attorney-client privilege the doctor-patient privilege the marital privilege the priest-penitent privilege — see also confidential communication
deliberative process privilege
: a privilege exempting the government from disclosure (as in discovery) of government agency materials containing opinions, recommendations, and other communications that are part of the decision-making process within the agency
executive privilege
: a privilege exempting the executive branch of government from disclosing communications if such disclosure would adversely affect the functions and decision-making process of that branch — see also United States v. Nixon

Note: Executive privilege is based on the separation of powers doctrine. In United States v. Nixon, the Supreme Court held that this privilege is not absolute and that without a claim of a need to protect military, diplomatic, or national security secrets, the need for evidence in a criminal trial will outweigh a general assertion of executive privilege.

informant's privilege
: the privilege of the government to withhold the identity of an informant who has provided evidence for a criminal trial

called also informer's privilege

journalist's privilege
: reporter's privilege in this entry
privilege against self-incrimination
: a privilege under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protecting a person from compulsion to make self-incriminating statements
reporter's privilege
: a privilege protecting a reporter from compulsion to reveal information acquired in the course of gathering news

called also journalist's privilege

c : something specially permitted or granted as a matter of discretion that may be limited or taken away right to…mooring permit is not necessarily created because discretionary state privilege was generously granted in [the] pastNational Law Journal — compare right
d in the civil law of Louisiana : a right of a creditor conferred by the nature of a debt to have priority over the debtor's other creditors
2 : any of various fundamental or specially sacred rights considered as particularly guaranteed to all persons by a constitution and especially by the privileges and immunities clause of the U.S. Constitution

History and Etymology for privilege

Latin privilegium law affecting a specific person, special right, from privus private + leg- lex law

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on privilege

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


to help to grow, develop, or succeed

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Intact Latin Quiz

  • roman tablet
  • What did focus mean in Latin?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Dictionary Devil

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!