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Definition of Privilege

(noun) Something of value one group has that another group does not, simply by belonging to a group, either as an unearned advantage or an unearned entitlement.

Privilege Pronunciation

Pronunciation Usage Guide

Syllabification: priv·i·lege

Audio Pronunciation

– American English
– British English

Phonetic Spelling

  • American English – /prIv-lij/
  • British English – /prIv-i-lij/

International Phonetic Alphabet

  • American English – /ˈprɪv(ə)lɪdʒ/
  • British English – /ˈprɪv(ᵻ)lɪdʒ/

Usage Note

  • Plural: privileges

Related Video

Related Quotations

  • “[A]lthough true equality of opportunity is probably not possible, the myth of meritocracy in America is itself harmful because its legitimation of inequalities of power and privilege rests on claims that are demonstrably false” (McNamee and Miller 2013:19).
  • “Masculine privilege and its benefits are real, but they’re often hard to see. They go unrecognized because they’re so common. The ideological, structural, and institutional factors of masculine privilege tend to remain invisible. And men tend to be unaware of their own privileges as men. Masculine privilege includes individual actions, but it exists on a larger scale as well. So even if a man says, ‘Well I’m not sexist. I’m not like that,’ masculine privilege isn’t so easy to shrug off. In general, men more easily than women walk through the world with a sense of status and cultural legitimacy that isn’t necessarily conscious or articulated. And it’s not necessarily something that men ask for. Men are conferred status and legitimacy by a culture with a long history of doing so. Masculine privilege functions on macro level through the ways our institutional and cultural systems are systematically structured” (Tarrant 2009:90).
  • “Not all men enjoy the same privileges and there are some women who enjoy certain privileges that men do not. Many things determine privileges we enjoy: our sexual orientation, the color of our skin, our ethnicity, our socioeconomic class, our physical abilities, our religion, our native language, and so on” (Kaufman and Kimmel 2011:126).
  • “Some bureaucracies perpetuate inequalities of race, class, and gender because this form of organizational structure creates a specific type of work or learning environment. This structure was typically created for middle- and upper-middle-class white men, who for many years were the predominant organizational participants” (Kendall 2011:194).
  • “Today scholars are beginning to realize that ‘race‘ is nothing more and nothing less than a social invention. It has nothing to do with the intrinsic, or potential, qualities of the physically differing populations, but much to do with the allocation of power, privilege, and wealth among them” (Smedley 1998:698–99).
  • “To enforce its power and sustain its privileges, the dominant ethnic group employs certain tools, which can be subsumed under the categories of prejudice and discrimination. Widely held beliefs and values regarding the character and capacities of particular groups are necessary to assure the long-range durability of ethnic inequality. These beliefs and values take the form of prejudices, that is, negative ideas expressing the superiority of the dominant groups” (Marger 1985:45).

Additional Information

Related Terms


Kaufman, Michael, and Michael S. Kimmel. 2011. The Guy’s Guide to Feminism. Berkeley, CA: Seal Press.

Kendall, Diana. 2011. Sociology in Our Times. 8th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Marger, Martin. 1985. Race and Ethnic Relations: American and Global Perspectives. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

McNamee, Stephen J., and Robert K. Miller, Jr. 2013. The Meritocracy Myth. 3rd ed. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Smedley, Audrey. 1998. “‘Race’ and the Construction of Human Identity.” American Anthropologist 100(3):690–702.

Tarrant, Shira. 2009. Men and Feminism. Berkeley, CA: Seal Press.

Works Consulted

Boudon, Raymond, and François Bourricaud. 1989. A Critical Dictionary of Sociology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Ferrante, Joan. 2011. Seeing Sociology: An Introduction. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Oxford University Press. (N.d.) Oxford Dictionaries. (https://www.oxforddictionaries.com/).

Wiley. (N.d.) Wiley Online Library. (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/).

Cite the Definition of Privilege

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2016. “privilege.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved April 22, 2024 (https://sociologydictionary.org/privilege/).

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

privilege. (2016). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/privilege/

Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2016. “privilege.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed April 22, 2024. https://sociologydictionary.org/privilege/.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“privilege.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2016. Web. 22 Apr. 2024. <https://sociologydictionary.org/privilege/>.