Definition of privy in English:



  • 1Sharing in the knowledge of (something secret or private)

    ‘he was no longer privy to her innermost thoughts’
    • ‘Are you two anonymous riders privy to the knowledge of the Midnight Rider's name?’
    • ‘There you can be a fly on the wall and listen in on the conversations that men are rarely privy to.’
    • ‘The threat to global stability vastly eclipses that of terrorism, say the few experts privy to its contents.’
    • ‘I'm not privy to the inner workings except through the grapevine.’
    • ‘We are never privy to their motivations, or to the reasons they abandon principle, or to how the baddies can live without it.’
    • ‘Hacking also becomes useful in tapping into intranet networks, making you privy to who is talking about what.’
    • ‘Again, I'm not privy to why they fine them, other than I know there was a $5,000 fine.’
    • ‘Merlin was not privy to the contents of the message.’
    • ‘Inherently distrustful of the situation and the number of witnesses privy to the scene, Ed finally rushed forward and grabbed his friend's arm, leading him towards the door.’
    • ‘The team watches the success of its efforts from another room, not privy to reaping the benefits firsthand.’
    • ‘As usual we were not privy to any information about the car's significance; we were just asked to find and mark it.’
    • ‘One can only hope our elected leaders, the only ones privy to the facts, truly are acting in the best interests of that pipe-dream they call global ‘peace’.’
    • ‘The rest of the population was not privy to this information.’
    • ‘As a mere backbencher I'm not privy to negotiations that go on.’
    • ‘The search group was not privy to the coin toss and placement of the target, and the placement group was not present for the actual search.’
    • ‘I'm not a judge nor a jury, nor am I privy to any of the evidence.’
    • ‘I am not privy to the government's plans for the future economy of our island but from what I can see, right now, tourism is where we are at - full stop.’
    • ‘As it is a basic principle of contract law that a contract cannot be enforced against someone who is not privy to the contract, one might foresee difficulties arising.’
    • ‘We are not privy to his innermost thoughts here, but to what he chose to record.’
    • ‘Those of us in the industry that are not privy to the details of the propulsion system guess the pearls are the result of a pulse jet type systems.’
    aware of, acquainted with, in on, informed of, advised of, apprised of, in the know about, cognizant of
    genned up on, clued in on, clued up on, wise to, hip to
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  • 2archaic Hidden; secret.

    ‘a privy place’
    • ‘The names of these privy individuals are known, since this is all done by the book.’
    • ‘Not many people had her com number, not the portable one anyway, they all called her via privy line at the office or at home.’
    • ‘The king and his consort had privy kitchens to serve them.’
    • ‘There is already a precedent for this because local residents (including my family) all have concessionary tickets to the privy gardens and have had them since they were replanted.’
    • ‘Sundays were further elevated as the principal court day with new regulations governing behaviour at chapel, and the privacy and dignity of Charles's privy lodgings were reinforced.’
    hidden, not visible, secret, out of sight, unseen, invisible, screened, covered, disguised, camouflaged, obscured
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  • 1A toilet located in a small shed outside a house or other building.

    • ‘It was just as well that the neighbours were so friendly as some of the outside loos - or privies - had two and four holes in them, allowing several people to go to the loo at the same time.’
    • ‘Tiana blanched as he left, and she stood there, the three wooden boxes that housed the privy holes before her, the kitchens to her left and behind her.’
    • ‘Hidden away under a large yew tree was the privy or earth closet, our only toilet facilities.’
    • ‘In one house with sixteen families there were only two privies.’
    • ‘The new law went beyond previous efforts to ban the outdoor privies of existing buildings, now declaring that they had to be replaced with modern toilets.’
    • ‘A public meeting heard that privies from some houses went directly into a ‘rubble drain’ originally intended to take away storm water.’
    • ‘Fortunately we're able to pass the time walking backwards and forwards to the outside privy at the bottom of the yard and moving the coal in and out of the bath for our annual wash.’
    • ‘The privy had its little stand in the corner with a blue curtain and a small wash stand and porcelain sink with a mirror.’
    • ‘After moving in, I built a raised platform and installed a toilet seat, converting the privy from a squatter to a sitter.’
    • ‘She said it was difficult to imagine the derelict state of many of Bradford's old buildings in the 1950s and 1960s, when rents were low, and the properties usually had no water and a shared outside privy.’
    • ‘In cities where blocks were laid out with rear access, separate houses were sometimes built behind the privies, facing the alleys and creating almost invisible low rent districts.’
    • ‘We also pointed out that the introduction of the outside privy in the late 19th century was a major step forward for sanitation, and that these modest buildings were therefore part of the social history of the area.’
    • ‘When the ground softened in the spring, Montgomery had laborers dig privies, one for every four houses, twenty-eight feet deep, about five feet in diameter, and brick-lined so they could be emptied repeatedly.’
    • ‘However, she is unhappy that her application to put a wooden summerhouse in her newly-landscaped garden has been rejected by planning officers on the grounds that it would be in the vicinity of the privy.’
    • ‘Then she jumped off the step, raced to the only private place she knew - the outside privy - and sobbed her heart out.’
    • ‘People drink in their offices, they drink on horseback, they drink on the privy, they drink pretty much wherever and whenever they have a free hand.’
    • ‘For example, one by-law informs householders they must make sure they clean their outside privy at least once a week or face the stiff penalty of a £2 fine.’
    • ‘They dig latrines, cobble together privies and chicken coops, and struggle to build cabins from piles of pine logs.’
    • ‘She had to share her cousin's bed on a verandah and use an outside privy across a cowfield.’
    • ‘Both sets of my grandparents had outside privies.’
  • 2Law
    A person having a part or interest in any action, matter, or thing.

    • ‘As such the Defendants are privies in title of the covenantors and bound by the estoppel which bound them.’
    • ‘From what I've - from what my attorneys have told me, all of the attorneys, actually involved it this on the defense side, feel very confident about the privy counsel.’
    • ‘The doctrine can be relied upon by persons who are not privies to the previous litigation but who claim that if they are going to be sued they should have been sued in the previous litigation.’
    • ‘This must be so on principle, since the trustee and beneficiaries are privies, and the authority is not wanting.’
    • ‘Particular care, however, needs to be taken where the plaintiff in the second action is not the same as the plaintiff in the first, but his privy.’


Middle English (originally in the sense ‘belonging to one's own private circle’): from Old French prive private (also used as a noun meaning private place and familiar friend), from Latin privatus withdrawn from public life (see private).