1. Of, concerning, or affecting the community or the people: the public good.
2. Maintained for or used by the people or community: a public park.
3. Capitalized in shares of stock that can be traded on the open market: a public company; took the company public.
4. Participated in or attended by the people or community: "Opinions are formed in a process of open discussion and public debate" (Hannah Arendt).
5. Connected with or acting on behalf of the people, community, or government: public office.
6. Enrolled in or attending a public school: transit passes for public students.
7. Open to the knowledge or judgment of all: a public scandal.
1. The community or the people as a whole.
2. A group of people sharing a common interest: the reading public.
3. Admirers or followers, especially of a famous person. See Usage Note at collective noun.
go public with Informal
To reveal to the public a previously unknown or secret piece of information: The president finally had to go public with the scandal.
In such a way as to be visible to the scrutiny of the people: "A career is born in public—talent in privacy" (Marilyn Monroe).
[Middle English publik, from Old French public, from Latin pūblicus, alteration (influenced by pūbēs, adult population) of poplicus, from populus, people, of Etruscan origin.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.