noun, plural sec·re·tar·ies.

  1. a person, usually an official, who is in charge of the records, correspondence, minutes of meetings, and related affairs of an organization, company, association, etc.: the secretary of the Linguistic Society of America.
  2. a person employed to handle correspondence and do routine work in a business office, usually involving taking dictation, typing, filing, and the like.
  3. private secretary.
  4. (often initial capital letter) an officer of state charged with the superintendence and management of a particular department of government, as a member of the president’s cabinet in the U.S.: Secretary of the Treasury.
  5. Also called diplomatic secretary. a diplomatic official of an embassy or legation who ranks below a counselor and is usually assigned as first secretary, second secretary, or third secretary.
  6. a piece of furniture for use as a writing desk.
  7. Also called secretary bookcase. a desk with bookshelves on top of it.

noun plural -taries

  1. a person who handles correspondence, keeps records, and does general clerical work for an individual, organization, etc
  2. the official manager of the day-to-day business of a society or board
  3. (in Britain) a senior civil servant who assists a government minister
  4. (in the US and New Zealand) the head of a government administrative department
  5. (in Britain) See secretary of state (def. 1)
  6. (in Australia) the head of a public service department
  7. diplomacy the assistant to an ambassador or diplomatic minister of certain countries
  8. another name for secretaire

n.late 14c., “person entrusted with secrets,” from Medieval Latin secretarius “clerk, notary, confidential officer, confidant,” a title applied to various confidential officers, noun use of adjective meaning “private, secret, pertaining to private or secret matters” (cf. Latin secretarium “a council-chamber, conclave, consistory”), from Latin secretum “a secret, a hidden thing” (see secret (n.)). Meaning “person who keeps records, write letters, etc.,” originally for a king, first recorded c.1400. As title of ministers presiding over executive departments of state, it is from 1590s. The word also is used in both French and English to mean “a private desk,” sometimes in French form secretaire. The South African secretary bird so called (1786) in reference to its crest, which, when smooth, resembles a pen stuck over the ear. Cf. Late Latin silentiarius “privy councilor, ‘silentiary,” from Latin silentium “a being silent.”

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