Deprivation - Private - privation - privilege - privity - privy

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It may be of some interest to note that the words private, deprive and privation all share an etymology - along with privilege, privy and the more archaic privity. All are derived from the Latin adjective privus 'single', 'each', and so 'belonging to an individual', 'one's own' or 'private'. In turn, this formed the verb prīvāre, with its past participle privatus. The original meaning of prīvāre was 'to deprive', 'to strip' [someone of something].

  • Private is the opposite of 'public' and of 'shared', 'communal'. For a note on pronunciation, see privacy - private.
    • A private (originally a 'private soldier') is the lowest military rank - a soldier with no public responsibility; one who gives no orders but concentrates on his or her own duties, as ordered by superiors.
    • 'The privates' is also a shortening - for 'the private parts'.
      • 'Private parts' are the bits of one's anatomy that are normally kept 'decently' covered in public - essentially the genitals, the external sex organs.
  • The verb 'to deprive', along with the associated noun deprivation, means 'to keep [someone] from possessing [or enjoying the benefits, etc, of] something', 'to take [something] away from [someone]. It is used in the construction 'deprive [someone] of something' - see also Deprave - deprive. The words based on deprive (with the prefix de-, 'thoroughly', 'completely') are recorded further back in English than 'privation', which had the same meaning (and is closer to Latin prīvāre); but has now shrunk its meaning. Deprivation is pronounced with a short 'i' in the second syllable: 'dep-rivv-a-shun', IPA: /dɛp rɪv ˈeɪ ʃən/.
    • Privations (usually in the plural) are extreme hardships caused by the lack ('deprivation') of such essentials as food, hard weather without shelter or liberty. 'Napoleon's Grande Armée lost about 3 out of every 4 men as it retreated from Moscow in 1812, mostly due to the privations of the Russian winter.' Privation, in singular and plural forms, is pronounced with a diphthongal 'long' '-i-' in the second syllable: 'prive-AY-shun(z)', /prɪv ˈeɪ ʃən(z)/, thus differing from deprivation.
  • The verb 'to privatize' has nothing to do with 'privation' (the non-count noun from 'to privatize' is 'privatization'.) 'To privatize' is to sell off state-owned assets ('nationalized industries') to private owners and companies, 'to make [ownership] private [as opposed to public]'.
In the words from here to the bottom of the list, the '-i-' after the 'pr-' is a short one: /ɪ/.
  • Privative is a technical term in the study of grammar, applied to words or affixes and meaning 'essentially negative' like the suffix -less, 'without [the quality in the noun to which it is added]'.
  • The noun privilege ('PRIVV-y-ledge', /ˈprɪv əl ɪ (or ɛ) dʒ/ - there is a note on its spelling at privilege (spelling)) - which is derived from prīvus, 'private' and lēx, lēg-, 'law', began
    • in the early Old English period as a particular freeing by the Pope, the head of the Roman Catholic church, of one or more of his subordinate priests from certain rules, duties or obligations.
    • This was quickly extended to mean any special freedom or right granted to a person or a corporation by a secular authority. It was extended to the exercise of the advantages that are seen to go with the possession of great landed estates, wealth, or rank by virtue of birth, etc (perhaps the most common meaning in the twenty-first century). In particular usage:
      • parliamentary privilege denotes certain legal rights enjoyed by Members of Parliament (a similar right is enjoyed in the House of Lords as a privilege of peers), principally an absolute freedom of speech in parliamentary debate from external claims, such as suits for slander;
      • privilege of clergy is another name for the archaic privileges of ordained churchmen also called benefit of clergy, principally freedom from sentence of death in a secular court;
      • older books may bear on the title or copyright page the Latin legend cum privilegio [cum privilegio [ad imprimendum solum], meaning 'with privilege [of sole printing]' - meaning that a monopoly had been granted (on royal authority).
  • The verb 'to privilege' means basically 'to give, award, recognize or allow [someone or something such as a document] a privilege, or special status', usually in a legal or formal sense. The participial adjective privileged means 'having privilege', very often in the sense of having the advantages enjoyed by great status, wealth etc.
  • Privy as an adjective is simply an older equivalent of 'private'. The word survives in formal writing, now only with the sense of modern 'private' (although OED records many different past meanings) with a strong tinge of the archaic, often in the construction 'privy to [a secret, or confidential information]', for example "the Minister's Press Secretary must be privy to many discussions which cannot be revealed, in order to understand those which it is his job to reveal" and "The clergy believed that they alone were privy to the counsels of the Almighty" (Buckle, H.T. (1862) Hist. Civilisation Eng. III. iv. 211, cited OED). Certain limited usages survive in the formal context of royalty and Government:
    • The Privy Council was originally, in England, the King's private group of advisers, drawn from the Great, or King's, Council, which was the great, but unmanageable, power in the medieval kingdom. The Privy Council became the central organ of government for the Tudor monarchy and survived until the Restoration, albeit under the different name of Council of State in the Interregnum. It survives today, although its function was replaced by the Cabinet: it is now very largely ceremonial (all Cabinet Ministers, past and present, are Privy Councillors, P.C.), although it has some limited powers exercised in Orders in Council, and a vestigial role as an Appeal Court for some British Commonwealth countries. The duties are performed by select sub-groups of Councillors.
    • A Privy Chamber is, since the reign of Henry VIII, a room reserved for the private use of a monarch within an official residence - a place where the monarch will not be disturbed by officials, state business etc. In Henry VIII's day, nevertheless, some of his most trusted subordinates were appointed Gentlemen of the Privy Chamber: they acted as friends, errand-boys (on confidential errands), confidential body servants and so on.
      • In older usage, until the start of the seventeenth century, anyone sufficiently senior could have such a room for their own use in an official building, as is clear in "Those which couet to get learning, seeke it not in publike places‥but in their studies and priuie chambers" (G. Pettie (1586), cited OED.
      • Before that, in Middle English, it was the usual formulation for what became known as 'a privy', and is now most usually 'a toilet'.
    • The king's Privy Seal was a lighter, more portable object than the 'Great Seal', with which private, or less important, business was sealed (marked as official). In England, it tended to be used for preliminary sealing of documents that would eventually be sealed with the Great Seal; in Scotland, it tended rather to be used for the monarch's more personal business
      • Lord Privy Seal is now an office within government, of cabinet rank but no specific responsibilities: the office is essentially a 'Minister without portfolio'. In the fourteenth century, the Clerk of the Privy Seal was usually a commoner; by the fifteenth, the Keeper of the Privy Seal was normally a Bishop; from the sixteenth century, the Lord Privy Seal was normally a Peer of the Realm. Only by the middle of the twentieth century did the Lord Privy Seal, paradoxically, become a member of the House of Commons as a matter of course.
    • As a noun, a privy is simply an older word for a lavatory - what is most usually in the UK called a toilet nowadays. Its meaning was narrowed over the last couple of hundred years to a separate building, often, in towns, at the bottom of the yard: 'an outside loo'. (A common term for a privy in the nineteenth and early twentieth century was 'shit-house'.)
  • A privity was originally anything that was kept private, hidden or secret. (The book of privities (or book of privity) is an old name for the Book of Revelation.) Thus in privity came to mean 'in private' or 'confidentially'. Then it came to be used for 'the privates' (in the sense of 'the genitals').
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