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

  • adj. Made a participant in knowledge of something private or secret: was privy to classified information.
  • adj. Belonging or proper to a person, such as the British sovereign, in a private rather than official capacity.
  • adj. Secret; concealed.
  • n. An outdoor toilet; an outhouse.
  • n. A toilet.
  • n. Law One of the parties having an interest in the same matter.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Of or pertaining to some person exclusively; assigned to private uses; not public; private.
  • adj. Secret; clandestine.
  • adj. Appropriated to retirement; private; not open to the public.
  • adj. Admitted to knowledge of a secret transaction; secretly cognizant; privately knowing.
  • n. 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.
  • n. A necessary house or place for performing excretory functions in private; an outhouse; a backhouse.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • 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).
  • n. In law, one standing in a relation of privily to another. See privity, 7.
  • n. A secret friend.
  • n. A necessary.

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

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


Middle English prive, from Old French, from Latin prīvātus, private, from prīvus, single, alone; see per1 in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Old French privé ("private"), from Latin privatus ("deprived"). More at private (Wiktionary)



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  • privy to campaign strategy

    March 10, 2011

  • 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

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

    August 21, 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

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

    August 20, 2007

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

    August 12, 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

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

    An one hopes a privy would be private.

    July 15, 2007