Definition of liberty in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈlibərdē/

noun (plural liberties)

1The state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views: compulsory retirement would interfere with individual liberty
More example sentences
  • In Condorcet's view modern society and individual liberty could be served only by public instruction understood in this sense.
  • Technology has the capability to impose graduated restrictions on liberty, but this is an issue the Government is specifically avoiding confronting.
  • In addition to providing society with political liberty and justice, a single tax on land promotes economic efficiency.
independence, freedom, autonomy, sovereignty, self-government, self-rule, self-determination;
civil liberties, human rights
1.1 (usually liberties) An instance of this; a right or privilege, especially a statutory one: the Bill of Rights was intended to secure basic civil liberties
More example sentences
  • He says currently human rights and fundamental liberties are not enshrined clearly and completely anywhere in Australian legislation.
  • We believed that our rights, privileges and liberties did not derive from the king or government, but rather were a gift from god.
  • The Great Charter confirmed previous royal charters and incorporates previous liberties, privileges and exemptions, which the city had formerly enjoyed.
1.2The state of not being imprisoned or enslaved: people who have lost property or liberty without due process
More example sentences
  • May I remind you that if you drive while disqualified over the next two years, you could lose your liberty.
  • Mrs Camidge said: ‘For the last two months he has been living in fear of losing his liberty through his foolishness.’
  • Criminals are being warned that they could lose their liberty and their lavish lifestyle thanks to the dedicated efforts of a North Yorkshire Police team.
1.3 (Liberty) The personification of liberty as a female figure.
Example sentences
  • As gorgeous as he was I could not date a guy with an ego as large as the Statue Of Liberty.
2The power or scope to act as one pleases: individuals should enjoy the liberty to pursue their own interests and preferences
More example sentences
  • Freedom is a condition of the mind: this means that you have the internal power to exercise your liberty.
  • Are there regions of the globe where the inhabitants have been condemned by their environment never to enjoy liberty, never to exercise their reason?
  • It means that you cannot deny that a human being has the rightful liberty to pursue - to practice or to seek - happiness as he sees fit.
freedom, independence, free rein, license, self-determination, free will, latitude
2.1 Philosophy A person’s freedom from control by fate or necessity.
Example sentences
  • He said in part that Hobbes's freedom or liberty, which amounts to not being frustrated, is no great thing.
  • There would also be a loss of liberty or freedom for the morally wicked, since they would be punished or otherwise made to suffer.
  • It would, I think, be generally agreed that he has laid down a necessary condition of liberty.
2.2 informal A presumptuous remark or action: how did he know what she was thinking?—it was a liberty!
2.3 Nautical Shore leave granted to a sailor.
Example sentences
  • Second, when their workload permits, Sailors get special liberty the day before their final exams to study, similar to what many commands do for advancement exams.
  • Sailors on the ship, ashore on liberty or in the local community would raise their level of awareness and be on the lookout for anything unusual.
  • A Sailor, on liberty in a foreign port, was returning to his ship when a knife-wielding assassin attacked him.



at liberty

1Not imprisoned: he was at liberty for three months before he was recaptured
More example sentences
  • At present there are a number of persons accused of murder at liberty on bail and in some cases it is many months after the alleged murder that the case comes to trial.
  • The defendant remained at liberty under his original bond of $35,000.
  • She submits that the purpose, or at least a purpose, of imprisonment is to punish the criminal by depriving him of certain rights and pleasures which he can only enjoy when at liberty.
2Allowed or entitled to do something: competent adults are generally at liberty to refuse medical treatment
More example sentences
  • Desdemona said a friend was storing valuables there, and she wasn't at liberty to allow them in.
  • We are being put at risk, because patients are free to roam and at liberty to abscond.
  • In fact, a principal authority is at liberty to withdraw the functions assigned to an agent.
free, permitted, allowed, authorized, able, entitled, eligible

take liberties

1Behave in an unduly familiar manner toward a person: you’ve taken too many liberties with me
More example sentences
  • I got on well with my teammates, but I think that would have been taking liberties towards the club.
  • Over time, the children of family members may take liberties that when left unchecked, become real problems.
  • Still, the advertisements are part of a growing strain of Web marketing that takes liberties with requested Web pages, browsers and e-mail in-boxes, making it harder for people to ignore ads.
act with familiarity toward, show disrespect to/toward, act with impropriety with/toward, act indecorously with, be impudent with, act with impertinence to/toward;
2Treat something freely, without strict faithfulness to the facts or to an original: the scriptwriter has taken few liberties with the original narrative
More example sentences
  • Doing so is disingenuous, and takes liberties with the facts and the policy of this matter.
  • This is one of the problems of an adaptation, where the writer must decide between a faithful, textually based adaptation and one that takes liberties in order to make it a better film.
  • For Parker, the traditionalists who accuse him of taking liberties are one of the targets.

take the liberty

Venture to do something without first asking permission: I have taken the liberty of submitting an idea to several of their research departments
More example sentences
  • I took the liberty of fiddling with the scansion in Lines 3 and 7.
  • My head feels as if it is stuffed with cotton wool, my tongue is made from plywood and someone took the liberty of welding a high pitched electronic buzzer to the inside of my middle ear.
  • I took the liberty of participating in the coed and competitive basketball leagues and found, to my surprise, that there are a lot of good players.
presume, venture, be so bold as


Late Middle English: from Old French liberte, from Latin libertas, from liber 'free'.

  • The root of liberty is Latin liber ‘free’, the source also of liberal (Middle English) , libertine (Late Middle English), and livery (Middle English), and deliver. During the French Revolution the rallying cry was ‘liberty, equality, fraternity’. Supporters of change wore the cap of liberty, a red conical cap of a type that had originally been given to Roman slaves when they were freed.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: lib·er·ty

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