Definition of free in English:

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Pronunciation: /frē/

adjective (freer /ˈfrēər/, freest /ˈfrēəst/)

1Not under the control or in the power of another; able to act or be done as one wishes: I have no ambitions other than to have a happy life and be free a free choice
More example sentences
  • We are bound by no established guidelines so we are free to be the kind of teacher we are capable and willing to be.
  • We live in a very multicultural society where respect and tolerance are just as important as free speech.
  • The people living in a democracy are free, and each citizen can arrange his life privately.
1.1(Of a state or its citizens or institutions) subject neither to foreign domination nor to despotic government: a free press
More example sentences
  • Levying that kind of money from free citizens of New Zealand is a serious business.
  • The free citizens of Hodge Hill bettered that: only 37 per cent bothered to vote.
  • We have to remind every free citizen of this world about our lack of freedom.
independent, self-governing, self-governed, self-ruling, self-determining, nonaligned, sovereign, autonomous;
1.2 [often as complement] Not or no longer confined or imprisoned: the researchers set the birds free
More example sentences
  • After 17 years of imprisonment they are now free - all that remains is for their names to be cleared.
  • Police have made no charges in the case, and Stanford remains free on bail.
  • Her sentencing is set for 15 July and she remains free on bail until then.
loose, unconfined, unbound, untied, unchained, untethered, unshackled, unfettered, unrestrained
1.3 historical Not a slave.
Example sentences
  • The slave or free status of children was determined by the status of their mother.
  • Laurium was one area of Attica where slaves probably outnumbered the free population.
  • At the western end is the old burial ground for slaves and free blacks.
1.4 [with infinitive] Able or permitted to take a specified action: you are free to leave
More example sentences
  • They are free to move and do not need an work permit.
  • I've bought the CD, it belongs to me, I'm free to sell it on, throw it out, or give it away.
  • If Riley wants to develop open space by more than his allotment, he would be free to buy more development permits on the open market.
allowed, permitted;
able, in a position to
1.5 [in names] Denoting an ethnic or political group actively opposing an occupying or invading force, in particular the groups that continued resisting the Germans in World War II after the fall of their countries. See also Free French.
Example sentences
  • The one thing which these rebels did have was an awareness of their legacy as free Americans.
  • He was picked up by the free French and was dressed up as a mute Belgian Farmer.
  • He is the son of a Free Polish Army soldier who escaped the Nazis in his homeland and made a precarious trek to England to continue the fight.
2 [often as complement] Not physically restrained, obstructed, or fixed; unimpeded: she lifted the cat free
More example sentences
  • It turned out that there was a short-circuit when a bolt rattled free and connected with the carbon of the boat.
  • He beat on the man's muscular arm, trying to pull himself free as the man opened up the door.
  • Violet shrieked, desperately trying to wrench her arm free from his grasp.
2.1 Physics (Of power or energy) disengaged or available. See also free energy.
Example sentences
  • He interpreted free heat as the kinetic energy of the particles of the body.
  • But as there is no magnetic equivalent of the free electron, this is intuitively impossible.
  • In a strong electric field, free electrons can be accelerated onto its inner surface.
2.2 Physics & Chemistry Not bound in an atom, a molecule, or a compound: the atmosphere of that time contained virtually no free oxygen See also free radical.
More example sentences
  • An appreciable amount of carbon dioxide, unlike oxygen, is also free in solution in the plasma.
  • Some of the molecules break up and release free acids and other compounds which give the oil a rancid taste.
  • The free oxygen then burnt with the graphite core, which then reacted with the hydrogen.
2.3 Linguistics (Of a morpheme) able to occur in isolation.
Example sentences
  • In other words, the domains in which a pronominal must be free are much more restricted than those in which an anaphor can be bound.
  • In Swedish, the indefinite article is a free morpheme, whereas the definite article is a suffix to the noun.
  • Bound morphemes have to be attached to a free morpheme, and so cannot be words in their own right.
3Not subject to or constrained by engagements or obligations: she spent her free time shopping
More example sentences
  • She said she didn't want to see me, that she didn't have time as she only had an hour free and she was doing some shopping.
  • The calendar is already packed and finding an extra free week in which to hold a semi-final round has proved impossible.
  • He uses his free time to continue the stalled investigation into his partner's death.
unoccupied, not busy, available, between appointments;
off duty, off work, off;
on vacation, on leave;
at leisure, with time on one's hands, with time to spare
3.1(Of a facility or piece of equipment) not occupied or in use: the bathroom was free
More example sentences
  • I often found it difficult to find a free changing room.
  • As soon as the bathroom's free I'm having a long hot soak!
  • He recently overheard two children in one of the palace's galleries saying to one another that maybe one of the workstations was free now and they could go back to it.
vacant, empty, available, unoccupied, not taken, not in use
4 [predicative] (free of/from) Not subject to or affected by (a specified thing, typically an undesirable one): membership is free of charge
More example sentences
  • Throughout the course of his long life, he remained completely free of heart disease and cancer.
  • There is no 100 per cent safe way to keep the country free of the disease.
  • In general the entries are free of any serious bias.
unencumbered by, unaffected by, clear of, without, rid of;
exempt from, not liable to, safe from, immune to, excused from
informal sans, minus
5Given or available without charge: free health care
More example sentences
  • Traders have won the first battle in their fight against council plans to introduce charging at a free car park.
  • The city has talked about making the service free or charging a relatively low fee.
  • Their one-hour performance starts at 3.00 pm and admission is absolutely free.
6Using or expending something without restraint; lavish: she was always free with her money
More example sentences
  • If only he was as free with his tolerance as he is with his mouth he'd have something worth exporting.
  • Wonderful to see that she's as free with basic errors as always.
  • Why are these girls so free with their kisses and why aren't I on the receiving end?
6.1Frank or unrestrained in speech, expression, or action: he was free in his talk of revolution
More example sentences
  • Mrs S and I enjoy nothing more than a free and frank exchange of views.
  • The argument is that this will stifle free and frank discussion.
  • He is someone who doesn't live by any rules and you can clearly see that he's very free in his approach.
unrestrained, unconstrained, free and easy, uninhibited
6.2 archaic Overfamiliar or forward in manner.
Example sentences
  • She spoke and listened to much free talk, such as one never would have thought the lips or ears of Rachel Castlewood’s daughter would have uttered or heard.
  • Let's just say he's rather free with his hands, if you know what I mean.
  • We've all become very free with each other, a bit too free.
7(Of a literary style) not observing the strict laws of form.
Example sentences
  • Eliot famously thought that no verse was free, for the poet who wanted to do a good job.
  • The style is very free; there are no rhymes.
  • The most obvious question here is if free verse is so ‘free’, then what will differentiate it from prose?
7.1(Of a translation) conveying only the broad sense; not literal.
Example sentences
  • When he translates, he does so in a free and racy style which at first surprises and then pleases.
  • He also published occasional verses, satires, and a free translation from Virgil.
  • These are themes which we are now very familiar with - and the production, with its very colloquial and rather free translation of the original, emphasises them too much in its wish to make the play ‘relevant’ to our times.
8 Sailing (Of the wind) blowing from a favorable direction to the side or stern of a vessel.
Example sentences
  • We had the wind free, a lightish air; but clouds of an inky blackness were beginning to arise, and at times it lightened without thunder.
  • As we had the wind free, the booms were run out, and all were aloft.
  • We had the wind free, and were on port, so one needed at least two pairs of eyes in each boat!


1Without cost or payment: ladies were admitted free
More example sentences
  • Those who cannot afford to pay this fee are exempted and treated free of cost.
  • I f a unit of electricity cannot be produced free of cost, it should not be given to anybody free of cost.
  • The Trust will shortly open a Help Centre in the city to provide counselling for patients free of cost.
2 Sailing With the sheets eased.
Example sentences
  • Evans calculated the tides perfectly once again, and we had the benefit of three knots free while we raced around the famous headland.
  • Make sure the sheets and halyards are clear and ready to run free as needed.

verb (frees, freed, freeing)

[with object]
1Release from captivity, confinement, or slavery: they were freed from jail
More example sentences
  • After she is freed from slavery, she becomes a teacher, writer, and activist for the black race and for women's rights.
  • Nine hostages were freed from the building earlier yesterday.
  • The truth is that a hostage was not freed by the kidnappers.
release, set free, let go, liberate, discharge, deliver;
set loose, let loose, turn loose, untie, unchain, unfetter, unshackle, unleash
literary disenthrall
1.1Release from physical obstruction, restraint, or entanglement: I had to tug hard and at last freed him
More example sentences
  • Passers-by came to the guard's aid and freed him from his restraints.
  • They were at the scene for 90 minutes, helping to free the victims and clear the road.
  • The powerful one frees himself and unties the bonds of everyone else.
extricate, release, get out, pull out, pull free;
rescue, set free
1.2Remove something undesirable or restrictive from: his inheritance freed him from financial constraints free your mind and body of excess tension
More example sentences
  • Already the move, which frees the club from restrictive rules, has paid dividends, explained Mr Collins.
  • The FCC is, in effect, holding out the possibility of freeing the networks from restrictions on buying up more stations.
  • Diabetics could have their lives dramatically transformed by a new approach, developed in Yorkshire, freeing them of restrictions on their diet.
exempt, except, excuse, relieve, unburden, disburden
1.3Make available for a particular purpose: this will free up funds for development elsewhere
More example sentences
  • In the process, space alongside the line once occupied by cartons of assembly parts has been freed for other purposes.
  • The primary purpose of the serviced land initiative is to free up land for development.
  • This would free up time for doctors to deal with more serious things.


Free means ‘without charge,’ and a gift is ‘something given without charge.’ The expression “free gift” is therefore a needless repetition.



for free

informal Without cost or payment: these professionals were giving their time for free
More example sentences
  • The reality of this world is that there is nothing for free and everything of this order comes at a cost.
  • It is installed for free by the company, which then recoups its cost and makes a profit through the charges.
  • Isn't accepting payment in order to file-share even worse than doing it for free?

free and easy

Pronunciation: /ˈfrē ən ˈēzē/
Informal and relaxed.
Example sentences
  • It was a lovely life back then, so free and easy.
  • In fact, although Americans tell me how much things have tightened up, compared to Britain everything seemed remarkably free and easy.
  • A lot of male friendships are built on both parties being free and easy and never having to contribute more than companionship in the pursuit of pleasure and the loan of a ton until payday.
easygoing, relaxed, casual, informal, unceremonious, unforced, natural, open, spontaneous, uninhibited, friendly;
tolerant, liberal
informal laid-back

free, gratis, and for nothing

humorous Without charge.
Example sentences
  • Either is yours if you want it, free, gratis, and for nothing.
  • In most instances, they perform their duties free, gratis, and for nothing.
  • I practice my art not for money, but free, gratis, and for nothing.

a free hand

Freedom to act at one’s own discretion.
Example sentences
  • And while lorry drivers have to adhere to strict conditions on their driving times, taxi drivers effectively have a free hand.
  • The private company will be given a free hand to raise the cost in line with inflation.
  • The head is responsible to the governors but is usually given a free hand to appoint staff, admit pupils and take day-to-day decisions.

free on board

(abbreviation f.o.b.) Including or assuming delivery without charge to the buyer’s named destination.
Example sentences
  • I note that the explanatory note of the bill quotes figures of $2 per kilo, free on board, in 1999, and that has declined in 2 years to $1.53.
  • Indian sugar is available for export at $305 a tonne free on board basis, compared with $312 a tonne for Thai sugar.
  • Mining revenue for 2007 reflects the export coal sold on a ‘Free on Rail’ basis

(a) free rein

see rein.

a free ride

A situation in which someone benefits without having to make a fair contribution: people have been having a free ride, paying so little rent that there is no money for maintenance
More example sentences
  • No one should be stigmatised for his or her lifestyle choice, but surely the law can ensure that no one has a free ride.
  • This will be tough, since they've had a free ride for so long.
  • The problem is that there is not now, nor ever will be, a perfect mechanism for separating the deserving from those looking to get a free ride.

the free world

The noncommunist countries of the world, as formerly opposed to the Soviet bloc.
Example sentences
  • Our candidate is a good and decent man who has trained all his life to be the leader of the free world.
  • There are many politicians in the free world who favor seemingly pragmatic cooperation with repressive regimes.
  • If the president of the United States really does think he's the leader of the free world, then the free world should have a say in who gets the job.

it's a free country

Said when asserting that a course of action is not illegal or forbidden, often in justification of it.
Example sentences
  • Yes, it's a free country, and yes, everyone can say pretty much whatever they want.
  • But it's a free country, people can argue what they want.
  • I know it's a free country, but if I've sat quietly on a bench minding my own business then why should I have to put up with someone else's smoke blowing freely in my face.

make free with

Treat without ceremony or proper respect: he’ll have something to say about your making free with his belongings
More example sentences
  • As it is, voles dare not approach the potting shed, though they make free with the rest of the garden.
  • The opera does make free with history but the characters of the opera are recognisably the historical characters of popular imagination.
  • Yes, the director has made free with time and place, and anyone who still feels that updating automatically disqualifies a production from being taken seriously need read no further.



Example sentences
  • Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.
  • Some of these incidents allegedly prevented persons from exercising their constitutional right to vote and have accordingly impacted on the freeness and fairness of the election.
  • I really like the freeness of being single.


Old English frēo (adjective), frēon (verb), of Germanic origin; related to Dutch vrij and German frei, from an Indo-European root meaning 'to love', shared by friend.

  • The adjective free appears in the writings of King Alfred (reigned 871–99) and comes from an ancient root meaning ‘to love’, from which we also get friend. Freedom is also Old English. The French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–78) wrote, ‘Man was born free, and everywhere he is in chains’, while in the 1960s TV series The Prisoner Patrick McGoohan cried ‘I am not a number, I am a free man!’ We now use freelance (early 19th century) as a term for a self-employed person working for a number of different companies, but in the early 19th century it was written as two words, and used to describe a medieval knight who offered his services as a mercenary. Freemasons (Late Middle English) were originally skilled workers in stone who travelled to find employment and had a system of secret signs and passwords that gained them access to work on important building projects. In the 17th century they began to admit honorary members, and membership of their societies or ‘lodges’ became a fashionable status symbol.

Words that rhyme with free

absentee, açai, addressee, adoptee, agree, allottee, amputee, appellee, appointee, appraisee, après-ski, assignee, asylee, attendee, bailee, bain-marie, Bangui, bargee, bawbee, be, Bea, bee, bootee, bouquet garni, bourgeoisie, Brie, BSc, buckshee, Capri, cc, chimpanzee, cohabitee, conferee, consignee, consultee, Cree, debauchee, decree, dedicatee, Dee, degree, deportee, dernier cri, detainee, devisee, devotee, divorcee, draftee, dree, Dundee, dungaree, eau-de-vie, emcee, employee, endorsee, en famille, ennui, enrollee, escapee, esprit, evacuee, examinee, expellee, fee, fiddle-de-dee, flea, flee, fleur-de-lis, foresee, franchisee, fusee (US fuzee), Gardaí, garnishee, gee, ghee, glee, goatee, grandee, Grand Prix, grantee, Guarani, guarantee, he, HMRC, indictee, inductee, internee, interviewee, invitee, jamboree, Jaycee, jeu d'esprit, key, knee, Lea, lee, legatee, Leigh, lessee, Ley, licensee, loanee, lychee, manatee, Manichee, maquis, Marie, marquee, me, Midi, mortgagee, MSc, nominee, obligee, Otomi, parolee, Parsee, parti pris, patentee, Pawnee, payee, pea, pee, permittee, plc, plea, pledgee, pollee, presentee, promisee, quay, ratatouille, referee, refugee, releasee, repartee, retiree, returnee, rupee, scot-free, scree, sea, secondee, see, settee, Shanxi, Shawnee, shchi, she, shea, si, sirree, ski, spree, standee, suttee, tant pis, tea, tee, tee-hee, Tennessee, testee, the, thee, three, thuggee, Tiree, Torquay, trainee, Tralee, transferee, tree, Trincomalee, trustee, tutee, twee, Twi, undersea, vestee, vis-à-vis, wagon-lit, Waikiki, warrantee, we, wee, whee, whoopee, ye, yippee, Zuider Zee

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: free

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