• IPA: /ˌkɑːnfɪˈdɛnʃl/


  1. Kept, or meant to be kept, secret within a certain circle of persons; not intended to be known publicly
    Synonyms: private, classified, off the record, privileged, secret, dern (obsolete)
    Antonyms: public, on the record
    The newspaper claims a leaked confidential report by the government admits to problems with corrupt MPs.
    • 1872, George Eliot, Middlemarch, Edinburgh: William Blackwood, Book 6, Chapter 61, p. 355,
      […] I have a communication of a very private—indeed, I will say, of a sacredly confidential nature, which I desire to make to you.
    • 1960, Muriel Spark, The Bachelors (novel), Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1961, Chapter 10, p. 163,
      It would tell against your reputation, losing a confidential document, wouldn’t it? Why didn’t you keep it confidential if it was confidential?
  2. (dated) Inclined to share confidences; (of things) making people inclined to share confidences; involving the sharing of confidences.
    Sitting in front of the fire, they became quite confidential, and began to gossip.
    • 1814, Jane Austen, Mansfield Park, Volume 3, Chapter 16, p. 310,
      Long, long would it be ere Miss Crawford’s name passed his lips again, or she could hope for a renewal of such confidential intercourse as had been.
    • 1851, Herman Melville, Moby-Dick, New York: Harper Brothers, Chapter 11, p. 60,
      I was only alive to the condensed confidential comfortableness of sharing a pipe and a blanket with a real friend.
    • 1905, Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth, New York: Scribner, Book 2, Chapter 2, p. 329,
      She and Bertha had never been on confidential terms, but at such a crisis the barriers of reserve must surely fall:
    • 1923, Arnold Bennett, Riceyman Steps, London: Cassell, Part 5, Chapter 2, p. 241,
      Miss Raste was encouraged to be entirely confidential, to withhold nothing even about herself, by the confidence-inspiring and kindly aspect of Elsie’s face.
  3. (dated) Having someone's confidence or trust; having a position requiring trust; worthy of being trusted with confidences.
    a confidential agent; a confidential servant; a confidential whisper
    • 1819, Walter Scott, The Bride of Lammermoor, Edinburgh: Archibald Constable, Chapter 8, p. 168,
      Now, they want me to send up a confidential person with some writings.
    • 1848, Anne Brontë, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, London: T.C. Newby, Volume 1, Chapter 18, pp. 320-321,
      This paper will serve instead of a confidential friend into whose ear I might pour forth the overflowings of my heart.
    • 1859, Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, London: Chapman and Hall, Chapter 3, p. 11,
      […] perhaps the confidential bachelor clerks in Tellson’s Bank were principally occupied with the cares of other people;
    • 1924, Ford Madox Ford, Some Do Not ..., London: Duckworth, Part 2, Chapter 2, p. 245,
      I repeated the instruction by letter and I kept a copy of the letter witnessed by my confidential maid.
    • 1959, Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan, New York: Dial, 2006, Chapter 6, p. 155,
      “He said he was a confidential messenger,” shouted a man.
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