Apparently both are similar.

How we can differentiate between right and privilege? Please kindly explain with examples


<tl;dr> The difference between rights and privileges is critically dependent on the context in which the words are employed. That said, there are some general guidelines and common exceptions that are discussed below.

There are two closely related definitions of the word right that are relevant here:

proper claims that justly accrue to everyone; one's due

Consider the following quote from Plato's dialog Philebus (translator: Benjamin Jowett)

If, as is natural, we begin by thinking of ourselves first, we are easily led on to think of others; for we cannot help acknowledging that what is right for us is the right and inheritance of others.

But this definition is philosophically general and doesn't tell us any operational detail. So, a right is also

the justifiable legal or moral claim to the possession of something, the authority to take some action, or the ability to enjoy some situation without interference.

This enhanced definition tells us that a right is codified by some authority to which right holders may appeal to claim that right. For instance, when you buy a house, you gain the right of ownership. You possess the house; it's yours. You also get the right of exclusion: you may take legal action to prevent trespassing. And you get the right of enjoyment of that property: no one may legally forbid you from holding a quiet lawn party at your house.

Note the general applicability of rights. Certainly you have to buy a house to have the bundle of rights that come with the ownership of real property, but these rights flow to everybody who owns a house. A privilege is a special kind of right, one enjoyed by a person or group of people, beyond (and perhaps even prejudicial to) the general rights of others. This can take the form of a special exemption from some duty.

For instance, members of the United States Congress hold a privilege of immunity for anything they say conducting public business on the floor of their chambers. They may not be arrested for making threats there, and they cannot be sued for defamation for speaking slander there. This is in stark contrast to the rest of us who have no such refuge from the law.

You will hear people recite the formulaic, "It was a privilege to know you." meaning that the benefits of your wisdom and sparkling personality were available to the speaker and not generally available to those you didn't make acquaintance with.

However, context is everything, and rights may be labeled basic rights, human rights, or (in the US) Constitutional rights. It is implied that claims to these kind of rights are particularly strong. In the US, the operating theory of government is that these rights are God-granted, and the state must take extraordinary care to protect them. In this view, some privileges have a lesser standing, and you may hear the statement:

Driving is privilege, not a right.

which means that the state has a far easier task to keep you from driving than say, from speaking freely. Driving is not a Constitutional right; free speech is. A conviction for drunk driving may erase your legal right to drive, but there are some Constitutional rights so sturdy that you may not waive them even if you wanted to.

A parent might say to a teenager

Remember that a midnight curfew is a privilege, so don't be late.

Children have a right to safety, food, shelter, and an education as mandated by law and parents may not legally violate those rights. But a late date-night curfew is entirely within parental control and may be revoked even on a whim.

But, as you may have noted, the privileged speech of members of the US Congress is as strong a right as any listed in the Bill of Rights. In fact, The US Constitution has a Privileges and Immunities clause (Article IV, Section 2) which prevents one state from discriminating against the citizens of another state. The Supreme Court has declared that in that context the meaning of the word privileges is basic rights.

Thus, see the warning at the top.


Too broad to answer it because the terms are actually flexible. But I'll answer it in general.

Privilege is made or granted by someone. On the other hand, rights are inherent. Rights don't require anything from anyone in general. Rights cannot be taken away; privilege can be.

Check out dictionaries for further information.

  • A right is owed to you because of who you are (e.g. human rights). A privilege is something extra, that you get because of high rank or because someone has kindly offered you a special favour. – Kate Bunting Jan 7 at 8:51
  • @user105719 You cannot answer the question if you get into the nuances. I answered it 'broadly.' Adding that word! – Maulik V Jan 8 at 2:01

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