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

  • noun A person employed to handle correspondence, keep files, and do clerical work for another person or an organization.
  • noun An officer who keeps records, takes minutes of the meetings, and answers correspondence, as for a company.
  • noun An official who presides over an administrative department of state.
  • noun A desk with a small bookcase on top.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • Knowing secrets; confidential; able to keep a secret.
  • noun One who is intrusted with private or secret matters; a confidential officer or attendant; a confidant.
  • noun A person who conducts correspondence, keeps minutes, etc., for another or others, as for an individual, a corporation, a society, or a committee, and who is charged with the general conduct of the business arising out of or requiring such correspondence, or the making of such records, etc.: as, a private secretary. Abbreviated Sec., sec.
  • noun An officer of state who is charged with the superintendence and management of a particular department of government.
  • noun A piece of furniture comprising a table or shelf for writing, and drawers, and pigeonholes for the keeping of papers: usually a high cabinet-shaped piece, as distinguished from a writing-table or desk.
  • noun In printing, a kind of script type in imitation of an engrossing-hand.
  • noun The secretary-bird or crane-vulture, Serpentarius secretarius.
  • Of a secretary; clerkly: noting a style of handwriting such as is used in engrossing.

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

  • noun rare One who keeps, or is intrusted with, secrets.
  • noun A person employed to write orders, letters, dispatches, public or private papers, records, and the like; an official scribe, amanuensis, or writer; one who attends to correspondence, and transacts other business, for an association, a public body, or an individual.
  • noun An officer of state whose business is to superintend and manage the affairs of a particular department of government, and who is usually a member of the cabinet or advisory council of the chief executive
  • noun A piece of furniture, with conveniences for writing and for the arrangement of papers; an escritoire.
  • noun (Zoöl.) The secretary bird.
  • noun (Zoöl.) A large long-legged raptorial bird (Gypogeranus serpentarius), native of South Africa, but now naturalized in the West Indies and some other tropical countries. It has a powerful hooked beak, a crest of long feathers, and a long tail. It feeds upon reptiles of various kinds, and is much prized on account of its habit of killing and devouring snakes of all kinds. Called also serpent eater.

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

  • noun obsolete Someone entrusted with a secret; a confidant.
  • noun A person who keeps records, takes notes and handles general clerical work.
  • noun often capitalized The head of a department of government.
  • noun A managerial or leading position in certain non-profit organizations, such as political parties, trade unions, international organizations.
  • noun US A type of desk; a secretaire.
  • noun A species of bird; Sagittarius serpentarius.
  • verb transitive To serve as a secretary of.

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

  • noun a person who is head of an administrative department of government
  • noun an assistant who handles correspondence and clerical work for a boss or an organization
  • noun a desk used for writing
  • noun a person to whom a secret is entrusted


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

[Middle English secretarie, from Medieval Latin sēcrētārius, confidential officer, clerk, from Latin sēcrētus, secret; see secret.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Medieval Latin secretarius ("one entrusted with secrets"), from Latin secretus ("private, secret"), past participle of secernere ("to separate, set apart"), from se- ("apart") + cernere ("to separate").


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  • I love the word secretary when used to mean a small writing desk. I used to have an antique secretary with darling little compartments and drawers with tiny handles.

    January 20, 2008

  • According to Ammon Shea, the OED says secretary meant, in the 4th century, "one privy to a secret".

    August 9, 2008

  • That is freaking awesome, because it makes so much sense.

    August 11, 2008

  • Also a cool bird. Image can be found here.

    August 26, 2008