from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Made a participant in knowledge of something private or secret.
  • adjective Belonging or proper to a person, such as the British sovereign, in a private rather than official capacity.
  • adjective Secret; concealed.
  • noun An outdoor toilet; an outhouse.
  • noun A toilet.
  • noun Law One in privity with another.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • Private; pertaining to some person exclusively; assigned to private uses; not public: as, the privy purse.
  • Secret; not seen openly; not made known in public.
  • Private; appropriated to retirement; sequestered; retired.
  • Privately knowing; admitted to the participation with another in knowledge of a secret transaction: generally with to.
  • Intimate; familiar; on confidential terms; well known.
  • Cognizant (of), acquainted (with).
  • noun In law, one standing in a relation of privily to another. See privity, 7.
  • noun A secret friend.
  • noun A necessary.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun (Law) A partaker; a person having an interest in any action or thing; one who has an interest in an estate created by another; a person having an interest derived from a contract or conveyance to which he is not himself a party. The term, in its proper sense, is distinguished from party.
  • noun A necessary house or place for performing excretory functions in private; an outhouse; a backhouse.
  • adjective Of or pertaining to some person exclusively; assigned to private uses; not public; private.
  • adjective Secret; clandestine.
  • adjective Appropriated to retirement; private; not open to the public.
  • adjective Admitted to knowledge of a secret transaction; secretly cognizant; privately knowing.
  • adjective [Eng.] a private apartment in a royal residence.
  • adjective (Eng. Law) the principal council of the sovereign, composed of the cabinet ministers and other persons chosen by the king or queen.
  • adjective a member of the privy council.
  • adjective [Eng.] moneys set apart for the personal use of the monarch; also, the title of the person having charge of these moneys.
  • adjective [Eng.] the seal which the king uses in grants, etc., which are to pass the great seal, or which he uses in matters of subordinate consequence which do not require the great seal; also, elliptically, the principal secretary of state, or person intrusted with the privy seal.
  • adjective a verdict given privily to the judge out of court; -- now disused.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective Private, exclusive; that is one's own.
  • adjective archaic Secret, hidden, concealed.
  • adjective With knowledge of; party to; let in on.
  • noun An outdoor toilet; latrine; earth closet; john; johnny house.
  • noun law A partaker; one having an interest in an action, contract, etc. to which he is not himself a party.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun a room or building equipped with one or more toilets
  • adjective (followed by `to') informed about something secret or not generally known
  • noun a small outbuilding with a bench having holes through which a user can defecate
  • adjective hidden from general view or use


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

[Middle English prive, from Old French, from Latin prīvātus, private, from prīvus, single, alone; see per in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Old French privé ("private"), from Latin privatus ("deprived"). More at private


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  • In the sense of "participating in the knowledge of something private or secret."

    An one hopes a privy would be private.

    July 15, 2007

  • Is it pronounced the same? I always thought "privy" in the way you describe rhymed with chivvy and "privy" as in outhouse rhymed with ivy.

    August 12, 2007

  • I have always heard both pronounced the same way, with a short i, rhyming with chivvy.

    August 12, 2007

  • I've never heard this pronounced with a long i at all.

    August 20, 2007

  • I think that it always has the short i, but I can see why you'd expect it to rhyme with ivy. Yet another reason why teaching English is harder than it really needs to be.

    August 20, 2007

  • And another example of my mispronouncing words based on their spelling. At least I know now, better late than never!

    August 21, 2007

  • You are the one who's making do

    I am the one who's privy to

    'cause you saw him in the park

    'cause you saw him at the bridges with the people in the dark.

    (Mayfly, by Belle and Sebastian)

    August 24, 2008

  • privy to campaign strategy

    March 10, 2011