priv·​i·​lege | \ ˈpriv-lij , 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

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Synonyms & Antonyms for privilege

Synonyms: Noun

appanage (also apanage), boon, concession, honor

Synonyms: Verb

authorize, entitle, qualify

Antonyms: Verb


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Examples of privilege in a Sentence


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.


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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Working on Kat’s campaign was the privilege of a lifetime. Nika Lomazzo, Teen Vogue, "What It's Like to Help Your Best Friend Win an Election," 12 Nov. 2018 Easier and less risky would be to extend the privilege enjoyed by banks, to hold digital money at the central bank, to everyone. The Economist, "Central banks should consider offering accounts to everyone," 26 May 2018 Fans are dying to know who had the honor, the privilege. Victoria Rodriguez, Seventeen, "Shawn Mendes' New "Nervous" Music Video Just Dropped and These Fan Reactions Are Hilarious," 11 June 2018 Organizers hoped to expand the festival a second day until Warner Bros. withdrew licensing privileges, forcing the event to be rebranded. David Sharos, Aurora Beacon-News, "Under new name, former Harry Potter Festival in Aurora helps visitors 'immerse themselves into another world'," 9 June 2018 The mining firm fought and won a court battle with the fraud office over attorney-client privilege concerning the agency’s ability to seize documents arising from an internal investigation. Samuel Rubenfeld, WSJ, "U.K. Drops Prosecution of Mining Executive," 6 Nov. 2018 Only 162 of the first 300,000 cases Jones reviewed could be covered by attorney-client privilege, and only three items that Cohen or the Trump organization had designated as privileged were removed. Stephen A. Crockett Jr., The Root, "Trump’s Personal Fixer Michael Cohen’s Lawyers Have Bailed and He’s Expected to Sing Like 1986 El DeBarge," 13 June 2018 There were so many great student-athletes that applied for this scholarship, so to be selected was such a privilege. Andrew Higginbottom,, "Recognizing excellence on and off the field," 6 July 2018 Windows services usually run with elevated privileges. Peter Bright, Ars Technica, "Another Windows 0-day flaw has been published on Twitter," 24 Oct. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

On Monday, Jones said 162 items out of 292,409 items reviewed are privileged. Kara Scannell, CNN, "Attorney for the media asks judge to keep Michael Cohen filings in the public realm," 7 June 2018 The myth privileges the rosy anticipations of politicians and soldiers over the dark expectations of women, African Americans, and civilians who felt dragged into a terrifying future by extremists from both regions. Fergus M. Bordewich, WSJ, "‘Looming Civil War’ Review: Anticipating the Apocalypse," 2 Oct. 2018 Such a solution would need to privilege public interests, not just public awards. Nathan Heller, The New Yorker, "Who Really Stands to Win from Universal Basic Income?," 24 Mar. 2014 Kurds make up roughly a fifth of Turkey’s population, and their outsize influence at the polls contrasts sharply with their longtime struggle for recognition in a state that privileges Turkish ethnicity. Kareem Fahim, Washington Post, "Kurdish voters could hold the key in Turkey’s hotly contested election," 22 June 2018 Morrison said if a client emails an attorney, discussing litigation, and mentions a potentially damaging statement made to a person asking what to do, noting the government might be aware of that potential witness, that would be privileged. Craig Lyons, Post-Tribune, "Potential privileged emails in Portage mayor's corruption case complicated, expert says," 1 June 2018 Franklin Roosevelt, scion of New York’s upper crust, opposed the colonialism that Churchill felt privileged to defend. Jonathan W. Jordan, WSJ, "‘The Kremlin Letters’ and ‘The Allies’ Review: The View From the Summit," 30 Nov. 2018 And because its algorithm unintentionally privileges negativity, the greatest rush comes by attacking outsiders: The other sports team. Amanda Taub And Max Fisher, New York Times, "Where Countries Are Tinderboxes and Facebook Is a Match," 21 Apr. 2018 But the autosuggestion tool guarantees that majority perspectives will be consistently privileged over others, right? Sean Illing, Vox, "How search engines are making us more racist," 3 Apr. 2018

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.

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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

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Statistics for privilege

Last Updated

16 Feb 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for privilege

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

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More Definitions for privilege



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 \

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

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Comments on privilege

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excited commotion or publicity

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