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 The debate touches not only on the direct environmental impacts of air travel but complicated questions about privilege and class. San Diego Union-Tribune, "‘Flight shaming’ could help unleash billions in airline cash to protect the Amazon and other tropical forests," 15 Sep. 2019 For them, Mugabe’s victory marked the end of nine decades of privilege and dominion, dating back to the arrival of Cecil Rhodes and the British pioneers in the 1890s. Lily Rothman, Time, "Robert Mugabe Ruled Zimbabwe for Decades. Here's How He First Came to Power," 6 Sep. 2019 The takedown of Christian girl autumn reflects a certain set of frustrations many people have about white female privilege and a way of life that many don’t approve of. Alex Abad-santos, Vox, "“Christian girl autumn,” explained.," 14 Aug. 2019 Such a bad actor could pop a shell with LOCALSYSTEM privileges and own the user's machine. Jim Salter, Ars Technica, "Severe local 0-Day escalation exploit found in Steam Client Services," 7 Aug. 2019 What an amazing privilege to work with Steven Spielberg to explore a new form of moviemaking. Regan Stephens, Fortune, "You’ll Be Surprised by Steven Spielberg’s Latest Project," 27 July 2019 In response to a public-records request from the Republic, Ducey's office claimed attorney-client privilege and refused to release investigation documents. Arizona Republic, "Did Arizona Department of Child Services try to bar parents from criticizing it?," 16 July 2019 The one-acre lot estate has RV parking, horse privileges and a backyard that includes covered patios, a barbecue area and a guest house. Ebony Day, azcentral, "Scottsdale mansion surrounded by Sonoran Desert landscape sells for $2.45M," 8 July 2019 Class, ethnicity and religion add nuance to the experience of being a woman and dictate the level of privilege and freedom women may have in her society. Saratu Abiola, Quartz Africa, "The fallout from a church rape scandal shows the harsh reality of being a woman in Nigeria," 3 July 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb In autofiction, the performance of realism—a literary construct that privileges knowable and empirical data about a coherent time and place inhabited by individuals with discrete points of view—gives way to the performance of reality. Christine Smallwood, Harper's magazine, "Novel, Essay, Poem," 16 Sep. 2019 Forbes editor-in-chief Randall Lane issued a statement placing the blame on the list’s methodology, which privileged public companies worth $10 billion or more. Fortune, "The Systems That Protected Epstein and Weinstein: The Broadsheet," 9 Sep. 2019 Frances Glessner Lee, grew up privileged at the turn of the century, but was denied a college education because her parents deemed it unladylike. Jennifer Latson,, "In ‘Savage Appetites,’ cracking four cases of the true-crime obsessed," 29 Aug. 2019 That would appear to privilege its Cdiscount, Monoprix and Franprix formats, and implies disposals elsewhere such as in hypermarkets, supermarkets and its Leader Price discount division. Washington Post, "A Famous Paris Grocery Worries About the Sales," 20 Aug. 2019 According to the Miami Herald, the Palm Beach County Sheriff's department granted Epstein work release privileges that allowed him to serve his sentence in his office for 12 hours a day for six days a week. William Cummings, USA TODAY, "Why Jeffrey Epstein's sex crime arrest is sparking calls for Trump Labor Secretary Acosta to resign," 9 July 2019 Next, antitrust law should make sure platforms don't unfairly privilege their products. CNN, "Silicon Valley is changing the world. It must do more to ensure everyone benefits," 25 June 2019 Corporate interests have privileged access to trade negotiations in a way that unions, environmentalists, and other stakeholders do not. Daniel W. Drezner, Twin Cities, "Daniel Drezner: Warren’s trade plan is bad politics and worse policy," 1 Aug. 2019 Boris Johnson’s upbringing was privileged but contingent. Sam Knight, The New Yorker, "The Empty Promise of Boris Johnson," 13 June 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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Statistics for privilege

Last Updated

26 Oct 2019

Time Traveler for privilege

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

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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

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


something of little or no value

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