Definition of privilege in English:



  • 1A special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group.

    ‘education is a right, not a privilege’
    mass noun ‘he has been accustomed all his life to wealth and privilege’
    • ‘Anonymity is a privilege seldom granted to sources by the respectable press, but ‘spokespeople’ get anonymity all the time.’
    • ‘It was not enough that each of the 18 provinces retained certain privileges not granted to Baghdad.’
    • ‘On our shores, those in the stands are fans, whose blind devotion grants them the privilege of being entertained - if they are that lucky - for two hours on Saturday afternoons.’
    • ‘For the donor I felt respect and gratitude, that she had granted us the privilege of viewing this most intimate of relationships in a way that I hope never to see again.’
    • ‘Isn't that what equality is supposed to be all about, where no class of citizen enjoys privileges and immunities not extended to all?’
    • ‘Nonetheless, he explained he thought it was a benefit the country's Premier should be entitled to, and so had asked the Governor for the privilege and duly been granted it.’
    • ‘Merely a matter of months into the 21st century, the Government feels we are old and mature enough to be granted special privileges.’
    • ‘A citizen or class of citizens may not be granted privileges or immunities not granted on the same terms to all citizens.’
    • ‘In Evans we have a woman who used her wealth and class privilege to great advantage in achieving her reform goals.’
    • ‘After all who among us has never taken advantage of any privileges in our workplace?’
    • ‘Lady Boothroyd stood by her refusal to grant the privileges when she was Speaker, saying she had been determined to ‘protect the rules of the House of Commons’.’
    • ‘What we all can do, however, is think for ourselves and grant others the privilege of doing so too.’
    • ‘Why, then, should anyone grant them such a privilege?’
    • ‘But, the privilege granted to us must not be used as a cover for unethical practices, aimed at violating the spirit of democracy.’
    • ‘In earlier times, people from wealthy families enjoyed great privileges not available to working-class and poor people.’
    • ‘But claims that Maori are in some way advantaged or enjoy special privileges over other New Zealanders are simply false.’
    • ‘The privileges and immunities that proclaim their superior status have grown, not lessened, in democratic India.’
    • ‘The first premise is of course correct, that among the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States is certainly the right to marry.’
    • ‘The bill, piloted by acting Foreign Affairs Minister Danny Montano, is meant to grant certain privileges and immunities to the ACS.’
    • ‘Why are they kawawa when the military, when the soldiers are given so many privileges not available to other sectors of the government?’
    advantage, right, benefit, prerogative, entitlement, birthright, due
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    1. 1.1 Something regarded as a special honour.
      ‘I had the privilege of giving the Sir George Brown memorial lecture’
      • ‘It's an immense privilege and honour to lead the council and I'm very proud of what has been achieved in the last three years.’
      • ‘She said it was an honour and a privilege to serve as president of the second oldest guild in Ireland and to be in office during the year when the guild celebrated its 90th anniversary.’
      • ‘It used to be a privilege and an honour to be selected to play for your country, but top stars these days are far too full of self-importance.’
      • ‘It would be an honour and a privilege to meet him.’
      • ‘It was a privilege to have that honour on a number of occasions down through the years since I first got to know him in the mid-1980s.’
      • ‘It may be a rare privilege to do the honours in a marriage ceremony, but invitations to the USPGA aren't exactly distributed like confetti.’
      • ‘‘It is a great honour and privilege to receive this award, especially in such a forum,’ he commented.’
      • ‘Still, Kochiites enjoyed the rare privilege of honouring the music maestro.’
      • ‘It would be a wonderful honour and a great privilege to manage Glasgow Rangers one day, but I don't look at it as being the be all and end all.’
      • ‘She wouldn't regularly have this job, for it was a privilege and honour, but Zarana had a friend who was government and rebelled against her father's wishes.’
      • ‘He added: ‘It's been a great privilege and honour to represent this particular branch of the armed forces.’’
      • ‘He said he was looking forward to the challenge of leading health reform, and that it was ‘a great honour and a privilege to be entrusted with this role’.’
      • ‘It is a privilege and honour for me to lead such a flypast to celebrate Her Majesty's Golden Jubilee.’
      • ‘To be a leader in that force is an honour and a privilege.’
      • ‘To play hurling was a real privilege and an honour, and to put on a club jersey, whether it be Ireland or London or to wear the colours of Kilkenny C.B.S. gave me a great feeling of pride.’
      • ‘It has been an honour and a privilege to work for this great club and to have enjoyed a memorable relationship with such special fans.’
      • ‘To command a new ship, and especially the first of class, I consider an immense privilege and honour.’
      • ‘He did, however, describe the awards haul as ‘a real privilege, a tremendous honour and a real achievement’.’
      • ‘Replying to the good wishes, Mr. Breen told how it had been a privilege and honour to live in Waterford.’
      • ‘Even though Ruth is in the infancy of her captaincy, she already realises that it is both a privilege and an honour to be Captain to such a dedicated and forward thinking group of members.’
      honour, pleasure, source of pleasure, source of pride, source of satisfaction
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    2. 1.2 (especially in a parliamentary context) the right to say or write something without the risk of incurring punishment or legal action for defamation.
      ‘he called on MPs not to abuse their privilege’
      mass noun ‘a breach of parliamentary privilege’
      • ‘Certainly in relation to the parliamentary privilege, I'm not taking that issue on.’
      • ‘The committee, in its report, found the letter to be insulting but it did not constitute a breach of parliamentary privilege or contempt of Parliament.’
      • ‘Many journalists and organisations view free speech as the opportunity to loosen the shackles of defamation, contempt of court, parliamentary privilege and privacy.’
      • ‘Moeketse reportedly admitted to a Sunday newspaper that he was selling his air tickets, given to him for free as a parliamentary privilege, to friends and their spouses.’
      • ‘Wouldn't this represent a breach of parliamentary privilege, compelling MPs to vote certain ways?’
      • ‘I think that if the member wants to name somebody under the parliamentary privilege that he has, he should go ahead.’
      • ‘Parliamentary privilege is an ancient, much misunderstood concept, which I won't go into here.’
      • ‘Rather an abuse of parliamentary privilege to achieve a cheap and shoddy pay back for his mates.’
      • ‘Not even the privilege of parliamentary participation is enough to appease those who wanted the presidency at whatever cost.’
      • ‘The MPs considered charging Large with breach of parliamentary privilege for his intervention - but ministers liked his tough approach and were keen to keep him.’
      • ‘After consultations with the Speaker advice was given that blocking email or any other form of communication to MP's was a breach of parliamentary privilege.’
      • ‘MPs should not abuse Parliamentary privilege by lying to the public.’
      • ‘Yet some courtroom equivalent of parliamentary privilege allows a man who has never met me and who knows nothing of me to make spurious allegations about me.’
      • ‘This was despite requests from Churchill and the British Royal Family that the king be granted greater diplomatic privileges.’
      • ‘Although he withdrew his statement and apologised twice, the opposition want action to be taken against him for abuse of parliamentary privilege.’
      • ‘This is not to say that there are not PNM MPs who sometimes abuse parliamentary privilege.’
      • ‘MPs should be held to account if they unfairly abuse parliamentary privilege and hurt innocent Kiwi families.’
      • ‘When it comes to parliamentary privilege, are we striking the appropriate balance between freedom of speech and the right to protect your reputation?’
      • ‘Flawed evidence and the controversial use parliamentary privilege has finally forced the hand of the Prime Minister in demanding the Senator's resignation.’
      • ‘That's right, vast swabs of the offending speech are reproduced under the cover of the Parliamentary privilege that had been so abused.’
      • ‘They want to go into greater detail about how they can extend that right of parliamentary privilege to outside Parliament.’
      • ‘Also on Thursday, three junior diplomats at Iraqi Embassy in Bangkok left Thailand after being told on Tuesday that their diplomatic privileges and immunities were being revoked.’
    3. 1.3 The right of a lawyer or official to refuse to divulge confidential information.
      • ‘First, solicitor-client privilege applies only to confidential communications between the client and his solicitor.’
      • ‘If the lawyer wants to release the material and the client doesn't, the client can then hire another lawyer to assert the privilege.’
      • ‘Usually, the attorney-client privilege protects private lawyers from being forced to reveal what their clients told them.’
      • ‘This notion that it is the lawyer's privilege, Mr Sheahan, is pernicious, wrong.’
      • ‘Z refused to provide information to the prosecutors citing a privilege against giving testimony against one's spouse.’
      • ‘The court also said that the reporter had a right to assert the privilege for nonconfidential information.’
      • ‘The question before us does not depend on the privileges of a solicitor.’
      • ‘The 1978 law only recognizes the enumerated privileges set forth in the Freedom Of Information Act.’
      • ‘And the notion that this is some sort of lawless act on her part, as if no one has ever received what the lawyers call a privilege, a right not to reveal sources, it just isn't so.’
      • ‘In 1923, for instance, a member of the Shanghai Bar accused an accountant of usurping the privilege of lawyers by acting as a witness to contracts.’
    4. 1.4historical A grant to an individual, corporation, or place of special rights or immunities, especially in the form of a franchise or monopoly.
      • ‘Hummell explains how it is that government gained its monopoly privileges in the first place and how the will to be free is essential in undermining this monopoly.’
      • ‘The only effective restriction on competition is the legal provision of monopoly privileges that can only be provided by governments.’
      • ‘Like rent, interest is the offspring of state-supported monopoly privilege, not of liberty or community.’
      • ‘The maximization of exports was to be stimulated by subsidies, tax incentives, and monopoly privileges granted by the Crown to export enterprises.’
      immunity, exemption, dispensation
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[with object]formal
  • 1Grant a privilege or privileges to.

    ‘English inheritance law privileged the eldest son’
    • ‘What is required is legislative change to the Family Law Act to require judges to make decisions privileging the child's safety ahead of all other considerations.’
    • ‘By privileging shiny things over everything else, we obscure the diversity of experience that defines humankind.’
    • ‘The two are at one in privileging democratic change over narrow national interest: the idealism of the centre leftist meets that of the right wing liberals.’
    • ‘I'd welcome examples to add to my collection of courts privileging language in the Daubert trilogy over the text of new Rule 702.’
    • ‘Under this law, anyone who protests inside a church can be prosecuted on a charge far more serious than breach of the peace; it is an odd, arcane law, privileging the church, and should no doubt be abolished.’
    • ‘At the time, we were told that BBC bosses could no longer justify privileging just Asian and African-Caribbean community voices.’
    • ‘Far from merely privileging a phenomenology intent on capturing the object's fleeting and independent existence, these poems conceive the object as the intersection of natural and social relations, which give it its identity.’
    • ‘One of the marks of the insanity of libertarian thinking is that it cannot, as this reader could not, distinguish between privileging the good of the family and ‘totalitarianism’.’
    • ‘These dovetailed with the devolution of a familial model based on the territorial prince and a rule of law privileging the eldest son.’
    • ‘The third is that government may not enact preferences for any one faith, privileging it above the others to, for example, create an official state religion.’
    • ‘‘Literature’ and ‘genre’ are not hard categories, or even opposed categories - and as a lover of genre I am not privileging one above the other.’
    • ‘For more extreme factions of unionism and republicanism, conflict over territory constitutes a war of attrition, privileging a winner-takes-all agenda over political dialogue.’
    • ‘This amounts to privileging a particular aspect of cultural unity over others, one that gives precedence to the elements of diversity of the same gathering of peoples.’
    • ‘Believing as I do, if I supported nationalised health care I would be privileging the needs of those who are undertreated now, over those who have diseases that we could cure in the future.’
    • ‘So what's at stake in privileging cinema and 1936 as your two origin points in The Language of New Media?’
    • ‘He suggests we read an article in which the case is made for privileging human rights over sovereignty.’
    • ‘It's the same for all those who, so far, have not been privileged with encounters of my son's kind.’
    • ‘The law does not privilege the interests of men above those of women.’
    • ‘It's just that by privileging the near-term practical outcome over the purity of the methodology, they are offering image over substance, much as the 60's themselves did.’
    • ‘This focus seems to contradict the book's goal of including Madagascar's diverse peoples without privileging any single group.’
    1. 1.1 Exempt (someone) from a liability or obligation to which others are subject.
      ‘barristers are privileged from arrest going to, coming from, and abiding in court’
      • ‘In some, but not all, forms of legal process, witnesses and parties attending and returning from court are privileged from arrest.’
      immune, immune from prosecution, protected, exempt, excepted
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  • check your privilege

    • Used to suggest that someone should recognize that their attitudes or views reflect the fact that they are in an inherently privileged or advantageous position because of the particular social category or categories to which they belong.

      ‘read a book or two about racism and get out of the suburbs and check your privilege’
      ‘to those who say this bill makes them feel uncomfortable, I say 'Check your privilege'’


Middle English: via Old French from Latin privilegium ‘bill or law affecting an individual’, from privus ‘private’ + lex, leg- ‘law’.