in private


  1. belonging to some particular person: private property.
  2. pertaining to or affecting a particular person or a small group of persons; individual; personal: for your private satisfaction.
  3. confined to or intended only for the persons immediately concerned; confidential: a private meeting.
  4. personal and not publicly expressed: one’s private feelings.
  5. not holding public office or employment: private citizens.
  6. not of an official or public character; unrelated to one’s official job or position: a former senator who has returned to private life; a college president speaking in his private capacity as a legal expert.
  7. removed from or out of public view or knowledge; secret: private papers.
  8. not open or accessible to the general public: a private beach.
  9. undertaken individually or personally: private research.
  10. without the presence of others; alone: Let’s go into another room where we can be private.
  11. solitary; secluded: He wants to meet us in a more private place.
  12. preferring privacy; retiring: a very private person.
  13. intimate; most personal: private behavior.
  14. of, having, or receiving special hospital facilities, privileges, and services, especially a room of one’s own and liberal visiting hours: a private room; a private patient.
  15. of lowest military rank.
  16. of, relating to, or coming from nongovernmental sources: private funding.


  1. a soldier of one of the three lowest enlisted ranks.
  2. privates. private parts.
  1. in private, not publicly; secretly: The hearing will be conducted in private.


  1. not widely or publicly knownthey had private reasons for the decision
  2. confidential; secreta private conversation
  3. not for general or public usea private bathroom
  4. (prenominal) individual; specialmy own private recipe
  5. (prenominal) having no public office, rank, etca private man
  6. (prenominal) denoting a soldier of the lowest military ranka private soldier
  7. of, relating to, or provided by a private individual or organization, rather than by the state or a public bodythe private sector; private housing
  8. (of a place) retired; sequestered; not overlooked
  9. (of a person) reserved; uncommunicative
  10. in private in secret; confidentially


  1. a soldier of the lowest rank, sometimes separated into qualification grades, in many armies and marine corpsprivate first class

late 14c., “pertaining or belonging to oneself, not shared, individual; not open to the public;” of a religious rule, “not shared by Christians generally, distinctive; from Latin privatus “set apart, belonging to oneself (not to the state), peculiar, personal,” used in contrast to publicus, communis; past participle of privare “to separate, deprive,” from privus “one’s own, individual,” from PIE *prei-wo-, from PIE *prai-, *prei-, from root *per- (1) “forward, through” (see per).

Old English in this sense had syndrig. Private grew popular 17c. as an alternative to common (adj.), which had overtones of condescention. Of persons, “not holding public office,” recorded from early 15c. In private “privily” is from 1580s. Related: Privately. Private school is from 1650s. Private parts “the pudenda” is from 1785. Private enterprise first recorded 1797; private property by 1680s; private sector is from 1948. Private eye “private detective” is recorded from 1938, American English.


1590s, “private citizen,” short for private person “individual not involved in government” (early 15c.), or from Latin privatus “man in private life,” noun use of the adjective; 1781 in the military sense, short for Private soldier “one below the rank of a non-commissioned officer” (1570s), from private (adj.).

Not in public; secretly, confidentially. For example, The hearings will be conducted in private, or May I speak to you in private? [Late 1500s] For an antonym, see in public.

In addition to the idiom beginning with private

  • private eye

also see:

  • free (private) enterprise
  • in private

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