The term is derived from the Latin a secretis, and in its full form was "asekretis of the court" (ἀσηκρῆτις τῆς αὺλῆς, asēkrētis tēs aulēs). It seems to be an innovation of the 6th century, as the contemporary historian Procopius of Caesarea found it necessary to explain it to his readers. Modern scholars have sometimes assumed that it dates to the 4th century, but the only reference to it, in the acts of the Council of Chalcedon, actually dates from a 6th-century translation of the document.
The asekretis succeeded the referendarii as the senior-most members of the imperial secretariat, above the notarii. Some of them were attached to the praetorian prefectures. Seals of the office's holders survive from the 6th and 7th centuries, while a reference from the Third Council of Constantinople (680) indicates the existence of a senior asekretis who functioned as head of the class, probably the predecessor of the later protasekretis. The asekretis are attested as holding mid-level dignities, from the rank of protospatharios to spatharios and sometimes even lower. Eminent members of the class included the emperor Anastasios II (r. 715–717), and the Patriarchs of Constantinople Tarasios (784–806) and Nikephoros I (806–815).