Definition of ad lib in English:

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ad lib

Pronunciation: /ˌad ˈlib/

verb (ad libs, ad libbing, ad libbed)

[no object]
Speak or perform in public without previously preparing one’s words: Charles had to ad lib because he’d forgotten his script [with object]: she ad libbed half the speech
More example sentences
  • He was doing more ad-libbing and improvisation than me.
  • He didn't look like he was being formally interviewed - he looked more like he was inadvisedly ad-libbing at large with an apparently friendly journalist, while the camera just happened to be rolling.
  • He was cold, he was bad at ad-libbing and he was very bad at setting up the panelists to be funny.
improvise, extemporize, speak impromptu, play it by ear, make it up as one goes along, wing it


An ad lib remark or speech: he came up with an apt ad lib
More example sentences
  • He makes a game attempt to liven up the dreary proceedings with some clever dialogue and ad-libs.
  • The propensity for ad-libs lends a natural feel to the dialogue that suits the actor and character, and this is probably the strength of the film.
  • Geoff delivers a monologue about divorce with ad-libs to the audience - this is real talent.

adverb& adjective

1Spoken or performed without previous preparation: an ad lib commentary [as adverb]: speaking ad lib
More example sentences
  • Some remember the ad-lib commentary you could provide just with a house mike during a practice.
  • He is a messy, carefree drunk, prone to loud outbursts, spontaneous characterisations and ad-lib renditions of whatever comes to his mind.
  • This nomadic improvisation troupe takes its ad-lib comedy to movie theatres and bars.
impromptu, extempore, without preparation, without rehearsal, extemporaneously
informal off the cuff, off the top of one's head
ad libitum
informal off-the-cuff, spur-of-the-moment
2As much and as often as desired: [as adverb]: the price includes meals and drinks ad lib [as adjective]: the pigs are fed on an ad lib system
More example sentences
  • It is vital that animals are built up on ad-lib meals gradually and that feed is kept in front of them at all times and that they have access to some roughage in the form of straw or silage.
  • If good quality silage is fed ad-lib to dry cows, energy intakes will exceed requirements which can result in over fat cows at calving with its associated problems.
  • A simple ration based on ad-lib straw with a protein balancer can be fed to young stock and replacement heifers and this will help preserve grazing.
3 Music (In directions) in an improvised manner with freedom to vary tempo and instrumentation.
Example sentences
  • We've been having some nice ad-lib musical jam sessions, thanks to numerous musicians and the international groups around us.
  • The scoring for the original version of this work is flute and piccolo in D flat, 2 clarinets in E flat (2nd ad lib).
  • Parts are also included in the set for E flat alto clarinet, B flat contrabass clarinet, and two flugelhorns, all of which are ad lib.


Early 19th century (as an adverb): abbreviation of ad libitum.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: ad lib

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