public school

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English[edit]

Nalgonda Public School, a private school in Nalgonda, India

Alternative forms[edit]

Etymology[edit]

From public (originally, "communal" and contrasted with personal tutors; later, "state-run" and contrasted with private schools) + school.

Noun[edit]

public school (plural public schools)

  1. (UK, Ireland) Certain private schools, particularly (initially) any grammar school operated apart from the personal lands of its students or (from the 19th century) the fee-paying secondary schools which developed from or were modelled upon them; a British boarding school
    • 1580 June 18, Letters of the Privy Council in John Strype's History of Edmund Grindal (1710), ii.xi.254
      All such School-masters as have charge of Children and do instruct them either in Publick Schools, or Private Houses.
    • 1604, Acts of Parliament 1 under James I, c.4, §8
      No person shall keepe any schoole... except it be in some publike or free Grammer Schoole, or in some such noblemans... or gentlemans... house as are not recusants.
    • 1749, Henry Fielding, Tom Jones, I.iii.v.184
      This worthy Man having observed the imperfect Institution of our public Schools, and the many Vices which Boys were there liable to learn, had resolved to educate his Nephew... in his own House.
    • 1893 Feb 4, Westminster Gazette, 2
      Our Public Schools... (by which phrase we never mean real public schools like the Board schools at all, but merely schools for the upper and middle classes) are in their existing stage primarily great gymnasiums.
    • 1937, George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier, 146
      Who is there who has not jeered at the House of Lords, the military caste, the Royal Family, the public schools, the huntin′ and shootin′ people, the old ladies in Cheltenham boarding houses, the horrors of ‘county’ society and the social hierarchy generally?
    • 2005, Nick Laird, Utterly Monkey, 223
      It turned out she was posh, or posh-ish, having been to a public school somewhere in Hampshire.
  2. (obsolete) A college or university
    • 1582, W. Allen, Briefe Hist. Glorious Martyrdom, sig. d3
      Thither [to Douai] he went, where after a yeres great diligence and many excercises done booth in house and publike scholes, he proceded bachilier of diuinitie.
    • ante 1593, Christopher Marlowe, Tragicall Hist. Faustus (1604), sig. A3v
      Ile haue them fill the publike schooles with skill. Wherewith the students shal be brauely clad.
    • 1651, Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, iv.xlvi.370
      That which is now called an University, is a Joyning together, and an Incorporation under one Government of many Publique Schools, in one and the same Town or City.
  3. (North America, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, formerly Scottish) A publicly-funded and -administered school; (UK, Ireland) such schools in the context of other countries
    • 1636, Harvard College Records (1925), I.171
      The Court voted for the erecting a Publick Schooll or Colledge in Cambridge.
    • 1683, Pennsylvania Frame of Government, §10
      The Governor and Provincial Council shall erect and order all public Schooles.
    • 1702, in Henry Paton's Minnigaff Parish Records: the Session Book of Minnigaff, 1694–1750 (1939)
      By Act of Parliament no school is to be kept within two miles of a publick school.
    • 1804 Aug. 12, Sydney Gazette, 1
      A subscription... by a great part of the settlers and others to build a Public School at the Green Hills.
    • 1861, Matthew Arnold, The Popular Education of France, with Notices of that of Holland and Switzerland, x.105
      Hardly anywhere in France... can the private boys' schools, whether they be lay or congreganist, hold their own in the competition with the public schools.
    • 1872, Acts of Parliament 35 & 36 under Victoria (Scotland), c.62, §25
      Every school under the management of the school board of a parish shall be deemed a parish school, and every school under the management of the school board of a burgh shall be deemed a burgh school, and all such schools are hereby declared to be public schools within the meaning of this Act.
    • 1872 June, Canadian Monthly, 483/1
      Public Schools... are distinguished from those which until recently were entitled Grammar Schools.
    • 1889 July, Harper's Magazine, 226/1
      As to the two races involved in this question of public schools the difference is this: the negroes do not wish mixed schools; the white people will not have them.
    • 1901 Apr, Atlantic Monthly, 434/1
      If our public schools fail to furnish an education fully as good as can be obtained in private schools, intelligent, conscientious, and well-to-do parents will withdraw their children.
    • 1904, Cape of Good Hope C.S. List, 267
      Public Schools. Course of Instruction... Class III. To include at least reading, writing, arithmetic, outlines of history and geography, and lessons on natural objects.
    • 1932, Nelle Scanlan, Pencarrow, 256
      The term ‘public school’ has a different connotation in New Zealand. It implies the Borough or County school; the school provided by the State.

Synonyms[edit]

Translations[edit]

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