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 As the book unfolds, Wolfe’s early life becomes more clear as well as his fanatical hatred of idle wealth and privilege. Jef Rouner, Houston Chronicle, "Dexter author Lindsay offers a new scoundrel in "Just Watch Me"," 3 Dec. 2019 Wealth and privilege are already great guarantors of securing a spot in a university. Anand Giridharadas, Time, "How America’s Elites Lost Their Grip," 21 Nov. 2019 Johnson, who most recently directed The Last Jedi, dusted off the old murder mystery and brought it into the present, intertwining the hunt for the killer with a satirical examination of wealth and privilege in the Trump era. Katie Campione, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Knives Out' Cast Talks Bringing the Whodunit to the Trump Era," 16 Nov. 2019 In the film and through tourism, the Rocky Steps bring people into a space of privilege. Laura M. Holzman, Quartzy, "The popularity of the “Joker Stairs” highlights the problem with movie tourism," 8 Nov. 2019 Some, like the Front Range’s Eldora and Sunday River in Maine, charge for the privilege of skiing uphill. Rachel Walker, The Know, "Once fringe, “uphill skiing” is now one of the fastest-growing winter sports," 4 Nov. 2019 While countries might claim legal or traditional rights, contests over diplomatic rights and privileges are fundamentally political, rather than procedural, disputes. David Banks, The Conversation, "Why doesn’t the US just send Anne Sacoolas back to the UK? Here’s what’s at stake in this dispute over diplomatic immunity," 1 Nov. 2019 What impedes a confident pedestrian provides essential access for food service workers, and life in a big city means acknowledging privilege, making room for other people, lots of other people, who in return give you the chance to be yourself. Stephanie Burt, Harper's magazine, "Where We Live Now," 28 Oct. 2019 Back in those days, when Harry Potter had just started his on-screen adventures at Hogwarts, getting your genome sequenced was a rare privilege. Bill Sullivan, Discover Magazine, "Gene's Addiction, or Why Ozzy Osbourne Is Still Alive," 27 Oct. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb 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 The Diamond Creek wines’ style has always been restrained and rustic, privileging acidity over alcohol, highly textured and complex. Esther Mobley,, "Remembering Boots Brounstein, who revolutionized the idea of Napa Valley terroir at Diamond Creek Vineyards," 6 Aug. 2019 Bursch also argued that to the extent the government wants Chatfield to testify about legislative matters, those communications should be privileged. Paul Egan, Detroit Free Press, "House speaker doesn't want to testify at Larry Inman bribery trial," 19 Nov. 2019 This led to the question if Indian voters were privileging nationalism over bread & butter issues. Shivam Vij, Quartz India, "Recent poll results show that nationalist rhetoric won’t help Modi hide economic woes forever," 25 Oct. 2019 New research shows that software guiding care for tens of millions of people systematically privileges white patients over black patients. Wired, "How an Algorithm Favored Whites Over Blacks for Health Care," 24 Oct. 2019 Comey makes the same error as Sanders by privileging Trump’s narrative. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "Impeach Him For Real," 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

7 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Privilege.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 10 December 2019.

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 state or do over again or repeatedly

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Semantic Drift Quiz

  • a twisty river
  • Which of the following was once a synonym for fun?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

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!