Definition of private in English:



  • 1Belonging to or for the use of one particular person or group of people only:

    ‘all bedrooms have private facilities’
    ‘his private plane’
    • ‘In February two Scots were jailed for a total of ten years in France after they were caught using a private plane to smuggle drugs into Scotland.’
    • ‘Had they chartered a private plane to fly them en masse to Edinburgh?’
    • ‘All cabins with full private facilities, including air conditioning’
    • ‘In fact, in Australia, fewer women belong to private golf clubs now than they did 20 years ago.’
    • ‘So I take all sorts of planes, from private jet to EasyJet.’
    • ‘Well-maintained private resort facilities are also available around the CTR.’
    • ‘He assures me this is one of the safest private planes ever built.’
    • ‘He was forced to relinquish his share of a private plane.’
    • ‘I am rather amazed that anyone questions the right of people to invite whom they choose to their private parties.’
    • ‘For golfers who belong to private clubs, getting a handicap is routine.’
    • ‘It's a facility that's widely used and currently caters for several private planes.’
    • ‘About a month ago I flew into Amsterdam with them, on this tiny private plane.’
    • ‘The road was once a private avenue and belonged to the Church of Our Lady of Health.’
    • ‘The present complex features a restaurant and a lodge with eight beautifully equipped bedrooms with private facilities.’
    • ‘They fly around on a 757 and burn more fuel than most average private planes!’
    • ‘But the reason not everyone has a helicopter or a private plane is only partly the expense and inconvenience.’
    • ‘I heard one guy say today that he thinks he enjoyed coming here just because he had a private plane to bring him.’
    • ‘The Mexican authorities demanded she be put on a private plane, while the Brazilians booked her on a regular commercial flight.’
    • ‘Darknets are gated communities that run on the Internet but are open only to those who belong to the private network.’
    • ‘The prank revolved around Michael getting on a private plane only to find out it was falling apart.’
    • ‘For at least the first ten years of my life he kept a private plane.’
    personal, one's own, individual, particular, special, exclusive, privately owned
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    1. 1.1 (of a conversation, activity, or gathering) involving only a particular person or group, and often dealing with matters that are not to be disclosed to others:
      ‘this is a private conversation’
      ‘a small private service in the chapel’
      • ‘The group will travel this Saturday to Goresbridge, Co Kilkenny, to attend a private function.’
      • ‘Later, however, he admitted that regular private functions (probably at least once a week) would not be so quiet.’
      • ‘While plans are still at an early age, MSPs have ruled out the use of any space for private functions such as parties or weddings.’
      • ‘The hall is owned by Braintree Council and is let out for private functions.’
      • ‘There was a private function on but I thought I could just mingle in.’
      • ‘The group is available for private functions by arrangement with Mr Powell.’
      • ‘We were in the beer garden outside a pub on the Thames, and there was a private function in a sectioned off part of the ‘garden’.’
      • ‘Weddings, party nights and private functions already booked will now have to be rearranged.’
      • ‘Under 18's will only be permitted in a pub after 9pm for private functions at which meals are served.’
      • ‘I was once working a private function, and four of us were slammed with about 150 cars arriving at the same time.’
      • ‘There were no interviews inside the hotel, the press was told by handlers: this was a private function.’
      confidential, strictly confidential, secret, top secret, classified, unofficial, off the record, not for publication, not to be made public, not to be disclosed, closet
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    2. 1.2 (of thoughts and feelings) not to be revealed to others:
      ‘she felt awkward at intruding on private grief’
      • ‘It flourishes on the back of faxes and in the margins of copybooks, doodles reveal a billion private boredoms.’
      • ‘Yet, again, she published a poem at odds with her most private feelings.’
      • ‘On the one hand his patience had been delightfully rewarded, but on the other hand he had intruded on their private pleasures and had alarmed them.’
      • ‘Whatever his private feelings, he came up with exactly the correct understatement for the Cenotaph.’
      • ‘She is a hunter too, but whatever her private feelings, she knows that the law must be upheld.’
      • ‘But the murder of the two ten-year-old Soham girls has sent shockwaves of grief far beyond the private agony of their families.’
      • ‘A source of aggravation could be your temporary inability to sort out intensely private feelings.’
      • ‘It went from private feelings of bitterness into a tidal wave of protest that forced its way into the mainstream.’
      • ‘The benches in the locker room sit up against the lockers for a more private feeling.’
      • ‘How far do private feelings and sentiments influence decisions that are intended to impact society as a whole?’
      • ‘And he tells us of his grey periods, too, just as we would share our private grief with close friends.’
      • ‘Was I now so comfortable in a synagogue or holy site that I could let my private feelings show?’
      • ‘My mixed emotions were private, and I felt incredibly bare each time I felt the need to tell her.’
      • ‘Still, it was more anger and private anguish than surprise that made her turn to look at him sharply.’
      • ‘Each of us had to learn to cope with the loss in his own private way.’
      • ‘No word on how the wife liked having her private feelings turned into a giant political display.’
      • ‘A world where private feelings are private and even very old friends and colleagues call each other by title and surname.’
      • ‘It is clear that personal attacks hurt, and he protects his private life and private feelings very closely.’
      • ‘He is expected to recall his private fears that he had been a ‘bad parent’.’
      • ‘Even if his visit were motivated by his private feelings, he ought to bear in mind his position as prime minister.’
      intimate, personal, secret
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    3. 1.3 (of a person) choosing not to reveal their thoughts and feelings to others:
      ‘he was a very private man’
      • ‘However, the reason is intensely private: I choose to protect my melancholy object by not naming it publicly.’
      • ‘Friends recall him as a private man, a man who did not often reveal his feelings.’
      • ‘What and how you think should be private unless you choose to share it.’
      • ‘The extraordinary thing is that this man with an opportunity to be paraded about in the public eye has chosen to remain private.’
      • ‘She was a private person, often revealing herself more in her drawings than in anything she said.’
      • ‘My mom chooses to be more private, and she lives in the western part of the United States.’
      reserved, introvert, introverted, self-contained, reticent, discreet, uncommunicative, non-communicative, media-shy, unforthcoming, secretive, retiring, ungregarious, unsocial, unsociable, withdrawn, solitary, insular, reclusive, hermit-like, hermitic
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    4. 1.4 (of a place) quiet and free from people who may interrupt:
      ‘can we go somewhere a little more private?’
      • ‘Once a day lacqueys brought us food and water and took us to a more private place to go to the bathroom.’
      • ‘We didn't go where we normally go; we went out into the country to a little private place.’
      • ‘Most poignantly, Frusciante stands stagefront with his eyes closed, lashing out searing solos that seem to come from a very private place.’
      • ‘Discover a private place of solitude and get in touch with your inner emotions and thoughts through body awareness.’
      • ‘It works best sky clad (for obvious reasons) so it's good to do in a private place.’
      • ‘So they kept the grassy field and my father uses it as a private place to eat his meals when he wants to be alone.’
      • ‘The stage is set in three connected spaces that represent a private place for each of the women.’
      • ‘Edwin and Nancy headed down to the gardens to find a private place for Nancy to sober up.’
      • ‘We had been told at NIDA to hold in everything until we were in a private place, and not to show anyone any signs of how we felt or anything.’
      • ‘The park was not a private place, but at night it was a good place to let you think, if you needed to escape for a minute or two.’
      • ‘As if by instinct, he retreats to the woodshed, a quiet and private place where he sometimes goes just to sit and think.’
      • ‘I don't know why I had brought Scarlett, as this was my private place, but something had just urged me to do it.’
      • ‘On the one hand, he often drew aside into a private place (such as a mountain) to spend time communing with his Father.’
      • ‘It's a bird watcher's haven, a private place for retreats and most importantly a community project.’
      • ‘You might also want to designate a quiet, private space where you can dim the lights and play your favorite relaxing music.’
      • ‘Find a private place where you start to release anger safely by screaming, hitting a pillow, or by crying - you may need the help of a therapist.’
      • ‘It was her private place she came to whenever she had a spare moment to herself.’
      • ‘I try to tell her that I am fourteen and should have some things I can call my own in a private place like my bedroom.’
      • ‘If you're in a private place, it's a different story - but is still covered by existing law.’
      • ‘All you can do is ensure you have enough food, a smile on your face, and a very private place to scream expletives at the top of your lungs.’
      secluded, secret, quiet, undisturbed, concealed, hidden, remote, isolated, out of the way, sequestered
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    5. 1.5[predicative] (especially of two people) alone and undisturbed by others:
      ‘we can phone from the library—we'll be private in there’
      • ‘"Could we go somewhere private to talk?’
      • ‘What Caroline didn't know was that he took a lease on the entire floor so they may be private when they chose to be.’
      • ‘So most of that stuff is just kind of a way for me to be private, and alone, and my daughter rides horses, and my wife does.’
      • ‘He needed some private moments alone to reshuffle his current emotions.’
      • ‘In the absence of tragedy and terror, they were left undisturbed to create private, coded worlds.’
      undisturbed, uninterrupted, without disturbance, without interruption
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  • 2(of a person) having no official or public role or position:

    ‘the paintings were sold to a private collector’
    • ‘In 1856 he took up a position as a private tutor close to Washington and he often travelled to that city to study mathematics in the libraries there.’
    • ‘Thus we each live a double life: equal public citizens and atomistic private individuals.’
    • ‘The achievement of these goals depends on cooperation by public and private leaders.’
    • ‘If memory serves me right DN1 belonged to a private car owner who bequeathed the number plate to the City of York.’
    • ‘Legislation in all states covers public as well as private employees.’
    • ‘I am disturbed that under this new parliament we are seeing a private individual buying public opinion.’
    • ‘These are issues that Bulgarian public servants and private citizens must address.’
    • ‘Israel encourages concealed-carry of handguns in public by private citizens.’
    • ‘In Texas a single faculty member spoke through the public media as a private citizen.’
    • ‘The public fall of a private person is nothing new in our age or any other.’
    • ‘All our funding is matched by money from public or private partners and the local community is heavily involved in the decision-making.’
    • ‘Anyone can access it: companies big and small, public institutions and private individuals.’
    • ‘Great effort is made to show both the public and the private man - the mortal life behind that immortal name.’
    • ‘In a moment, the word was flashing across radio and TV nets to military officials and private citizens.’
    • ‘Future revenue would be paid to private individuals, and public spending would be financed by income tax.’
    • ‘If he wants you to act a poor man, a cripple, a public official, or a private person, see that you act it with skill.’
    • ‘This is rubbish - people are quite prepared to chip in as private individuals to public monuments that they support.’
    • ‘Despite his poor health, the pontiff has a busy agenda, with regular public appearances and private audiences.’
    • ‘A not-for-profit trust will not achieve savings if it uses private builders and public workers.’
    • ‘Every individual should also be able to ascertain which public authorities or private individuals or bodies control or may control their files.’
    1. 2.1 Not connected with one's work or official position:
      ‘the ambassador visited the school in a private capacity’
      • ‘Russell maintained that his private affairs had nothing to do with the performance of his professional duties.’
      • ‘He has yet to announce whether he will go in a private capacity, but his aides have hinted he probably will not do so.’
      • ‘And he emphasises he is making his comments in his private capacity.’
      • ‘Hong visited the North in a private capacity, but this is the first time for a senior official of a pro-Seoul organization to go there.’
      • ‘The ambassador visited the school in a private capacity as a guest of the Indus International School.’
      • ‘Lee said that he was visiting Taiwan in a private capacity.’
      • ‘Mayors and top provincial officials from China have visited Taiwan in the past, but they did so in a private capacity.’
      • ‘Gifts received in a private capacity by Royals were treated in the same way as gifts to anyone else, he said.’
      • ‘The salaries, together with expenses, will be in addition to the money they earn in their private capacity.’
      • ‘In my view a councillor would not be undertaking activities in an official capacity if he attended a meeting solely in his private capacity.’
      • ‘Often there is no connection between one's private behavior and political positions.’
      • ‘And it objected to any journalists attending the taping yesterday, even in a private capacity.’
      • ‘But none of them answered a question about how each of the trusts is constituted if it is a trust in a private capacity.’
      • ‘This was so whether or not the accused was abroad on official business or in a private capacity.’
      • ‘Two people, who are nonsubvented, have chosen to remain living at Dromore in a private capacity.’
      • ‘Yes, one of my staff attended the awards dinner in a private capacity.’
      • ‘By contrast, expert witness immunity is not available to a party who acts as an assessor or mediator in an entirely private capacity.’
      • ‘But you should not interfere with the private affairs of Professor Yang.’
      • ‘Gardaí in Killarney stressed they were here in a private capacity and not part of an official Swedish army party.’
      • ‘Washington issued the visa despite strong protests from China, arguing that Tang was visiting in a private capacity.’
      unofficial, personal, non-official, non-public
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  • 3(of a service or industry) provided or owned by an individual or an independent, commercial company rather than the state:

    ‘this research was carried out by private industry’
    • ‘Pretty soon you'll have to pay royalties for your thoughts benevolently loaned to you by private industry.’
    • ‘The CFS feels that part of the problem lies with the transfer of the CSLP to a private service provider.’
    • ‘In fact this was nothing more than a way of deflecting criticism away from the state while at the same time providing profits for private industry.’
    • ‘Setthapol was nominated and elected by the more than 20 committee members who all belong to the private business sector.’
    • ‘But that case does not assist in deciding whether the private service provider is itself amenable to judicial review.’
    • ‘Not to worry, Miller will sort out private industry, those economy wreckers and get us down to 5 cents a gallon for gas.’
    • ‘Still, private industry may yet take some cues, and then develop that beyond what the institute can do on its own.’
    • ‘The development would be in two stages and would consist of commercial, public and private services.’
    • ‘I came into politics from private industry; and the government could learn a lot about cutting costs.’
    • ‘The problem is that some powerful lobby groups seem dead set against new technologies just because they are new, and promoted by private industry.’
    • ‘I do not see signs of significant sums coming from private industry.’
    • ‘Key details of what proportion of costs will be met by the taxpayer and by private industry have yet to be finalised.’
    • ‘Planned economic growth was accompanied by the socialization of agriculture and of private commerce and industry.’
    • ‘The Government is to tap private industry in an effort to build trade links and swap skills with the world's poorest countries.’
    • ‘She said the arrest involved only shares belonging to private shareholders but refused to elaborate.’
    • ‘Citizens are asking for the same level of service from government that they get from private industry.’
    • ‘So it turned to private industry to provide the extra manpower needed to implement the program.’
    • ‘But more business doctoral grads are entering private industry rather than academia.’
    • ‘You could even take the concept into private industry: Ramadan Inn has a ring to it.’
    • ‘It will roll out in the remaining private industries before the end of the year.’
    independent, non-state-controlled, non-state-run, privatized, denationalized, non-public, commercial, private-enterprise
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    1. 3.1 (of education or medical treatment) conducted outside the state system and charging fees to those who make use of it:
      ‘private education’
      ‘if I could afford it I'd go private’
      • ‘Here we take a look at nursery schools in the state and private education systems, as well as community projects run by other parents.’
      • ‘The problem is compounded by the ban on general practitioners giving private prescription to their NHS patients.’
      • ‘It also gives some idea of the high cost of private medical treatment in this country.’
      • ‘I was at Harrow County grammar where I'd arrived two years earlier from a private prep school to be bullied because my accent was too posh.’
      • ‘Finally, he faced the embarrassment of being asked to pay for private treatment.’
      • ‘Should you stay in the public system or go private with your medical insurance?’
      • ‘Both also have private practices and perform infertility treatment at the private Assuta Hospital and Herzliya Medical Centre.’
      • ‘The patient was unable to afford the full cost of private treatment and was told that he would have to be denied the drug.’
      • ‘Hospitals, NHS or private, would charge insurers for their services.’
      • ‘And Hewitt has not relented on diverting billions of pounds from NHS trusts to private treatment centres.’
      • ‘The dental hospital is the last resort for those are can't find a dentist to treat them on the NHS and cannot afford private treatment.’
      • ‘Meanwhile the other part of their Party wants to change our NHS for a system of compulsory private medical insurance.’
      • ‘NHS treatment is attractive to patients because the charges are lower than private treatment, sometimes significantly.’
      • ‘Bupa and several other companies offer private medical healthcare and are worth considering.’
      • ‘Yet if you were taken ill in the United States, for example, the cost of private medical treatment could be ruinous.’
      • ‘Milburn also announced a major extension of private treatment within the NHS.’
      • ‘This is all very well for those who can afford private treatment but millions of people can't.’
      • ‘So in fact there is a choice for the very rich to jump the queue: Pay for treatment in the private US system.’
      • ‘Thank goodness we had a bit of money put by and were able to pay for private treatment.’
      • ‘Getting private treatment for infertility can be very expensive, and there is no guarantee it will be successful.’
    2. 3.2 Relating to or denoting a transaction between individuals and not involving commercial organizations:
      ‘it was a private sale—no estate agent's commission’
      • ‘But private sales are not and buyers are left stranded if their newly-bought vehicle is not what they expected.’
      • ‘I know of several private sales in which homeowners have paid hundreds of thousands for a scrap of land.’
      • ‘Would you allow a private, nonliterary organization to place its logo on the cover of one your books if you were in a similar situation as Mr. Franzen?’
      • ‘It has no right to look into a private transaction which was a matter between me as a lawyer and my client.’
      • ‘Many charters served simply to confirm previous charters, judgements or private transactions.’
      • ‘However, consumers should be careful when entering into private sales agreements.’
      • ‘It's a private transaction between me and the landlord/ landlady/ shopowner.’
      • ‘Just at obscenity, the same place where the line is drawn with regard to sales for private viewing?’
      • ‘Sligo was shocked by the last week's private sale of Lissedell House.’
      • ‘It bans the private sale of all firearms, creates a Federal ballistics database, and much more.’
      • ‘This seminal case ruled that an audit was an essentially private transaction between auditor and their client.’
      • ‘Indeed, it is hard to imagine voting not being a thoroughly private transaction.’
      • ‘I was lucky because I had a nice old landlady who thought I was nice and she sold me the property as a private sale.’
      • ‘One of Northern Ireland's leading shipping companies has been sold in a private sale, it was announced today.’
      • ‘Last time you were here, you said the big mistake was making it a private sale and not going through a broker, right?’
      • ‘Since opening in March, the home has mostly relied on private donations from charitable organizations.’
      • ‘Many of the females, purchased at a private sale in 1997 were shown by their new West of Ireland owners.’
      • ‘If the sale is private they will be auctioned off separately.’
      • ‘Sale to a private investor is understood to be imminent.’
      • ‘A Fender Stratocaster played by Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock is believed to have sold for much more but that was in a private sale.’


  • 1The lowest rank in the army, below lance corporal or private first class.

    • ‘It observes the privates and lance corporals of the army, as well as its generals and marshals.’
    • ‘Of those sentenced to death, one was a former army private, one a former police commando and the third a serving army major.’
    • ‘He enlisted in the Army in 1980 and was first assigned as a young private as a supply clerk in Germany.’
    • ‘In fact, the Army private did get to see his father in uniform - and in action, though it was ever so brief.’
    • ‘Carson sent another private to ask permission to leave their weapons with the Raiders and try to get to one of the submarines.’
    • ‘It has 3000 soldiers, including privates, sergeants and officers.’
    • ‘He was stopped outside the camp and told the private that the Colonel was expecting him.’
    • ‘As before, the Korean War recipients ranged from privates to lieutenant colonels, with nine army men and three Marines represented.’
    • ‘He later enlisted as a private in the Royal Tank Corps, before being transferred back to the RAF.’
    • ‘Rumor has it that an Army Air Corps private died on the site where this building was constructed.’
    • ‘Even a third class pilot had more power than a private in the army.’
    • ‘There is also a significant difference between an Army private from West Virginia and a deposed dictator.’
    • ‘Kind of a weird topic to discuss over dinner, if you ask me, but I am a lowly private without rank or feelings.’
    • ‘A military investigation found the soldiers responsible for wounding a female private.’
    • ‘He enlisted as a private in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1900 and was commissioned a year later.’
    • ‘Abroad, the death of an army private has been followed by the murder of five innocent civilians.’
    • ‘One of the key components of infusing warrior ethos and training core warrior tasks and drills is limiting the ratio of privates to drill sergeants.’
    • ‘At Fort Knox, the Armor Center trains troopers, tankers, and leaders from privates to colonels - over 20,000 a year, as a matter of fact.’
    • ‘And we have privates in the Army Reserve who have PhDs, as well as all of the medical providers here as part of our theater support command.’
    • ‘It is essential to grow leaders from private or lieutenant to command sergeant major or general.’
    private soldier, common soldier
    infantryman, foot soldier, trooper
    sapper, ranker
    gi, enlisted man
    tommy, squaddie, tommy atkins
    grunt, buck private
    swad, swaddy
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  • 2privatesinformal

    short for private parts
    • ‘Obviously, naming our privates is a matter of personal taste.’
    • ‘That is like believing that if you flick the privates of a rabid pit-bull it won't attack you.’
    • ‘‘Hey, gimme that,’ says the second kid protecting his privates.’
    • ‘One day I am going to snap because of some animal suddenly rubbing my privates with its face.’
    • ‘I think I'd actually rather flash my privates than appear in public in creased clothing.’
    • ‘The technician fumbles with my privates like it's no big deal.’
    • ‘Yup, there's actually thousands of mentally abnormal people out there flashing their privates and ‘performing provocative poses’.’
    • ‘It's downright sneaky of them to hang out there with their privates exposed.’
    • ‘Its front cover shows a naked man aggressively clutching his privates, while the inner sleeve has an array of expletives and sexual suggestions.’
    • ‘Men, keep your hands away from your privates when viewing this, ok?’


  • in private

    • With no one else present:

      ‘I've got to talk to you in private’
      • ‘When it comes to actually dealing with death and the dead, even in public, we do so in private.’
      • ‘Most British ambassadors would have huffed and puffed in private, and said nothing in public.’
      • ‘The judge was today hearing a bail application on Colin's behalf in private.’
      • ‘The GMC panel held much of the hearing in private, but ruled its decision could be made public.’
      • ‘There is even a coffee table and two armchairs if you want to chat with your girlfriend in private.’
      • ‘The special meeting was being held in private because of the commercial sensitivity of the project.’
      • ‘Yesterday, Manchester city council's executive met in private to agree the deal.’
      • ‘Rome has an obsession with secrecy - a lot goes on in private but it need not.’
      • ‘The problem for those seeking clarity is that much of the direct policy lobbying takes place in private.’
      • ‘The meeting is being held in private, with only creditors allowed to attend.’
      in secret, secretly, in secrecy, privately, behind closed doors, in camera, with no one else present
      in confidence, confidentially, between ourselves, off the record
      sub rosa
      entre nous, à huis clos
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Late Middle English (originally denoting a person not acting in an official capacity): from Latin privatus withdrawn from public life, a use of the past participle of privare bereave, deprive, from privus single, individual.