Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
- Secret, private.
1837, Capt. Marryat, “Snarleyyow; or, the Dog Fiend”, in The Metropolitan magazine, volume 18, page 18:
- [...] it was not unfrequent for a good bargain to be struck with him by one or more of the public functionaries, the difference between the sum proposed and accepted being settled against the interests of Mynheer Krause, by the party putting him in possession of some government movement which hitherto been kept in petto.
1838, Blackwood's Edinburgh magazine, volume 44, number 278, page 718:
- [...]in its nine members, stand prominently personified indolence and ignorance consummate, solemn pedantry and petulance in petto, upstart self-conceit and high-born arrogance all-blustering, self-sufficiency all smirking, and solid acres in all their stolidity, the remnant of vigour on crutches, and of saintly talent ever dozing
- (Roman Catholicism) Designated as a cardinal but not yet announced.
1845, Eliakim Littell and Robert S. Littell, “Metternich”, in The Living Age:
- In future you will have the right to dress in red — indeed, you are already cardinal in petto, and you will be proclaimed at the next conclave.
As an adjective, in petto usually follows the noun to be modified.
- (Roman Catholicism): in pectore
- Privately, in secret.
1834 June 7, “News of the Week”, in The Spectator, number 310:
- Ministers and their Majority had a rejoinder in petto, as we have explained above; but it was one which they could not for shame avow, though they voted on the strength of it.
1997, Gérard Genette, Paratext: Thresholds of Interpretation, ISBN 0521424062, page 190:
- In the same department as the suspect allographic prefaces we will naturally put many a "Notice from the Publisher [or Editor]," [...] which we will meet again and which we have every reason to attribute in petto (but only in petto) to the author.
- (in secret): behind closed doors