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

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Synonyms & Antonyms for privilege

Synonyms: Noun

Synonyms: Verb

Antonyms: Verb

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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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Lindsey, a Democrat whose district includes Norfolk and Virginia Beach, is the new chair of the House privileges and elections committee. USA TODAY, "Surfing Santas, endangered red wolves, who owns the letter ‘O’?: News from around our 50 states," 28 Dec. 2019 Twice in 2010 and once in 2015, she was disciplined on drug charges, losing privileges for more than a year. Steve Helling,, "Susan Smith 'Cries For Her Children' Every Christmas Since Murdering Them, Says Source," 27 Dec. 2019 Students ‘‘should have all the rights, responsibilities, and privileges that an adult has., "WASHINGTON — When Syracuse University freshmen walk into professor Jeff Rubin’s Introduction to Information Technologies class, seven small Bluetooth beacons hidden around the Grant Auditorium lecture hall connect with an app on their smartphones and boost their ‘‘attendance points.’’," 25 Dec. 2019 But front-of-the-plane privilege is horrible, too, a culture of entitlement exacerbated by loyalty programs. Pete Mcbride, National Geographic, "Have you found insight on your journeys?," 24 Dec. 2019 There seems to be a growing mind-set that privilege demands a larger social responsibility, coupled with a focus on lifestyle interests. Steve Blank, The Denver Post, "Cocktail chattables: Home buyers and sellers are moving in different directions as needs and desires are re-evaluated," 19 Dec. 2019 In Drag: The Complete Story, readers get the privilege of flipping through pictures of gorgeous queens while also getting an in-depth history of the nonconformist art. David Canfield,, "EW's literary gift guide: The 30 best holiday books of the year," 18 Dec. 2019 This comparison enables an analysis of how prejudice and privilege affect daily life. Melissa Tandiwe Myambo, Quartz India, "In countries like India, skin colour matters when you are a migrant," 17 Dec. 2019 But these privileges could be withdrawn for any reason at all and many slaves never got them at all. Robert E. May, The Conversation, "Slave life’s harsh realities are erased in Christmas tours of Southern plantations," 12 Dec. 2019 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.

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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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Time Traveler for privilege

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for privilege

Last Updated

5 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Privilege.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 19 January 2020.

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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

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Comments on privilege

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to insert between existing elements

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