Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adv. Roman Catholic Church In secret or private. Used of appointments of cardinals by the pope undisclosed in consistory.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Secret, private.
  • adj. Designated as a cardinal but not yet announced.
  • adv. Privately, in secret.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. in the breast; hence, in secrecy; in reserve.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • In or within the breast; in reserve; not disclosed.

Etymologies

Italian : in, in + petto, breast.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Italian in ("in") and petto ("chest"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

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  • In secret, held in reserve. (Literally: in the breast)

    December 14, 2007

  • I have still more contrivances in embryo. I could tell thee of an hundred, and still hold another hundred in petto, to pop in as I go along, to excite thy surprise, and to keep up thy attention.

    Lovelace to Belford, Clarissa by Samuel Richardson

    December 14, 2007