1660s, "private man of war, armed vessel owned and officered by private persons, usually acting under commission from the state," from private (adj.), probably on model of volunteer (n.), buccaneer. From 1670s as "one commanding or serving on a privateer." As a verb, 1660s (implied in privateering) "to cruise on a privateer, to seize or annoy an enemy's ships and commerce."
Entries linking to privateer
late 14c., "pertaining or belonging to oneself, not shared, peculiar to an individual only;" of a thing, "not open to the public, for the use of privileged persons;" of a religious rule, "not shared by Christians generally, distinctive;" from Latin privatus "set apart (from what is public), belonging to oneself (not to the state), peculiar, personal," used in contrast to publicus, communis.
This is a past-participle adjective from the verb privare "to bereave, deprive, rob, strip" of anything; "to free, release, deliver" from anything, from privus "one's own, individual," from Proto-Italic *prei-wo- "separate, individual," from PIE *prai-, *prei- "in front of, before," from root *per- (1) "forward." The semantic shift would be from "being in front" to "being separate."
Old English in this sense had syndrig. Of persons, "not holding public office or employment," recorded from early 15c. Of communications, "meant to be secret or confidential," 1550s. In private "privily" is from 1580s. Related: Privately.
Private school "school owned and run by individuals, not by the government, and run for profit" is by 1650s. Private parts "the pudenda" is from 1785 (privete "the sexual parts" is from late 14c.; secret parts in the same sense is from 16c.).
Private property "property of persons in their individual, personal, or private capacity," as distinguished from property of the state or public or for public use, is by 1680s. Private enterprise "business or commercial activity privately owned and free from direct state control" is recorded by 1797; private sector "part of an economy, industry, etc. that is free from state control" is from 1948.
Private eye "private detective, person engaged unofficially in obtaining secret information for or guarding the private interests of those who employ him" is recorded from 1938, American English (Chandler). Private detective "detective who is not a member of an official police force" is by 1856.
c. 1600, "one who offers himself for military service," from French voluntaire, "one who volunteers," also as an adjective, "voluntary," from Latin voluntarius "voluntary, of one's free will," as a plural noun "volunteers" (see voluntary). Non-military sense is first recorded 1630s. As an adjective from 1640s. Tennessee has been the Volunteer State since the Mexican War, when a call for 2,800 volunteers brought out 30,000 men.
"piratical rover on the Spanish coast," 1680s; earlier "one who roasts meat on a boucan" (1660s), from French boucanier "a pirate; a curer of wild meats, a user of a boucan," a native grill for roasting meat, from Tupi mukem (rendered in Portuguese as moquem c. 1587): "initial b and m are interchangeable in the Tupi language" [Klein]. The Haitian variant, barbacoa, became barbecue.
Originally used of French settlers working as woodsmen and hunters of wild hogs and cattle in the Spanish West Indies, they became a lawless and piratical set after being driven from their trade by Spanish authorities. Boucan/buccan itself is attested in English from 1610s as a noun, c. 1600 as a verb.
updated on November 18, 2020
Dictionary entries near privateer