late 14c., secretarie, "person entrusted with secrets or private and confidential matters" (a sense now obsolete), from Medieval Latin secretarius "clerk, notary, scribe; confidential officer, confidant," a title applied to various confidential officers, noun use of an adjective meaning "private, secret, pertaining to private or secret matters" (compare Late Latin secretarium "a council-chamber, conclave, consistory"), from Latin secretum "a secret, a hidden thing" (see secret (n.)).
Compare Late Latin silentiarius "privy councilor, 'silentiary,' " from Latin silentium "a being silent." The specific meaning "person who keeps records or minutes, conducts correspondence, etc., one whose office is to write for another," originally for a king, is recorded by c. 1400. As title of ministers presiding over executive departments of state, it is from 1590s. The word also is used in both French and English to mean "a private desk," sometimes in French form secretaire.
As a type of handwriting used on old legal documents, 1570s. The carnivorous South African secretary bird is said to be so called (1786) in reference to its crest, which, when smooth, resembles a pen stuck over the ear.
"piece of furniture comprising a table or shelf for writing and drawers and pigeonholes for private papers," 1771, from French secrétaire (13c.), from Medieval Latin secretarius (see secretary). Englished form secretary is attested in this sense from 1803. Compare Middle English secretarie "private place, private chamber."
"office or official position of a secretary" in the administrative and executive sense, 1811, from French secrétariat, from Medieval Latin secretariatus "the office of a secretary," from secretarius "clerk, notary, confidential officer, confidant" (see secretary). Meaning "division of the Central Committee of the USSR" (with capital S-) is from 1926, from Russian sekretariat.
It forms all or part of: ascertain; certain; concern; concert; crime; criminal; crisis; critic; criterion; decree; diacritic; discern; disconcert; discreet; discriminate; endocrine; excrement; excrete; garble; hypocrisy; incertitude; recrement; recriminate; riddle (n.2) "coarse sieve;" secret; secretary.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Greek krinein "to separate, decide, judge," krinesthai "to explain;" Latin cribrum "sieve," crimen "judgment, crime," cernere "to sift, distinguish, separate;" Old Irish criathar, Old Welsh cruitr "sieve;" Middle Irish crich "border, boundary;" Old English hriddel "sieve."
c. 1300, notarie, "a clerk, a personal secretary; person whose vocation was making notes or memoranda of the acts of others who wished to preserve them, and writing up deeds and contracts," from Old French notarie "scribe, clerk, secretary" (12c.) and directly from Latin notarius "shorthand writer, clerk, secretary," from notare, "to note," from nota "shorthand character, letter, note" (see note (n.)).
Meaning "person authorized to draw up and authenticate contracts and other legal instruments" is from mid-14c.; especially in notary public (late 15c.), which has the French order of subject-adjective. Related: Notarial.
abbreviation of agriculture, attested from 1839s (in Secretary of Ag., etc.); by 1880s in reference to college courses, American English.
1711 in the political sense, "the first minister of a state," a shortening of premier minister (1680s); see premier (adj.). In U.S. usage, premier formerly was applied occasionally to the Secretary of State (late 19c.).
Australian evergreen tree, commercially important for its edible nut, 1904, from Modern Latin (1858), named for Scotland-born chemist Dr. John Macadam, secretary of the Victoria Philosophical Institute, Australia, + abstract noun ending -ia.