Everything About Secretaries

Publicado em 23/07/2003


This word derives from the medieval Latin secretarius.

The original meaning, dating to about 1387, was someone employed to handle confidential or secret business.

By 1433, the sense of someone who is employed to record transactions and business dealings had arisen. This sense leads to the modern usage in the office.

By 1599, a third sense had arisen, that of someone authorized to act in the name of the principal, especially in matters of government affairs. Hence the titles of US cabinet members who act in the name of the president.


Just when secretaries originated no one knows exactly. The role arose out of the natural need for a prominent person to whom confidential matters could be entrusted and who could act as an assistant for a principal. It is known that secretaries existed in Rome prior to the establishment of the empire. They were usually educated men who took dictation as "scribes," and oftentimes acted as trusted advisors.

Before the invention of parchment and reed pens, tools of the trade for scribes ranged from chisels used upon stone to styluses used on clay, wood, or wax tablets. Shorthand became part of the preparation and training of secretaries (and emperors as well, including Julius Caesar and Augustus).

In early modern times, members of the nobility had secretaries, who functioned quite similarly to those of the present day. They were always men; most had command of several languages, including Latin, and were required to have what we would consider today as a broad generalized education.

As commerce and trade expanded, people of wealth and power needed secretaries (confidants and trusted agents) to handle correspondence on private or confidential matters, most…

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