Definition of licence in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈlʌɪs(ə)ns/
(US license)


1A permit from an authority to own or use something, do a particular thing, or carry on a trade (especially in alcoholic drink): a gun licence [as modifier]: a television licence fee
More example sentences
  • Virtually no account is taken of the often cruel results of losing one's licence - loss of job, and all that can follow from that.
  • Phantom was a former pirate radio station, which had tried several times to get an official radio licence.
  • All stockings must first be washed in an approved disinfectant and hung on boundary gateposts together with a copy of the official licence.
permit, certificate, document, documentation, authorization, warrant, voucher, diploma, imprimatur;
certification, credentials;
1.1 [mass noun] Formal or official permission to do something: a subsidiary company manufactured cranes under licence from a Norwegian firm
More example sentences
  • The method is not permitted in Australia, although permission under licence can be obtained by scientists in the UK.
  • However, they cannot travel without strict permission and license from the King.
  • So far, two ice cream manufacturers have managed to snag the official license for low-carb super-premium ice cream products.
franchise, permission, consent, sanction, warrant, warranty, charter;
2 [mass noun] Freedom to behave as one wishes, especially in a way which results in excessive or unacceptable behaviour: the government was criticized for giving the army too much licence
More example sentences
  • I believe that the Government has taken excessive licence from the views of the select committee.
  • Equally important, it protects freedom from itself, tempering excesses of individual license by postulating a higher moral code.
  • By avoiding the messiness of debate that a real democracy requires, we have given license to the excesses we now bemoan.
permission, authority, discretion, right, a free hand, leave, consent, authorization, sanction, approval, assent, entitlement, privilege, prerogative, blessing, exemption, mandate;
liberty, freedom;
power, empowerment, dispensation;
informal a blank cheque
rare warranty
freedom, liberty, free rein, latitude, choice, option, independence, self-determination, scope, impunity, margin, leisure;
2.1A writer’s or artist’s freedom to deviate from fact, or from conventions such as grammar, for effect: artistic licence
More example sentences
  • Organizations hoping to discredit him claim he manipulates facts and stretches artistic license.
  • He was a playwright and memoirist who clearly believed in a writer's artistic license to embroider.
  • Okay, so maybe the movie takes a little artistic license with the facts.
disregard for the facts, deviation from the truth, departure from the truth;
freedom, looseness
Example sentences
  • Torturing cats was common in several strands of European culture, as part of rituals of license and disorder.
  • Outside and opposed to normal social life, liminality is also given ritual expression in licence, disorder, and role reversal.
  • Telescoping the text frantically, he omits most of the low-life scenes, which show how sexual licence slides into moral anarchy.
licentiousness, dissoluteness, dissipation, debauchery, immorality, impropriety, decadence, profligacy, immoderation, intemperateness, indulgence, self-indulgence, excess, excessiveness, lack of restraint, lack of control, irresponsibility, abandon, laxness, laxity, disorder, disorderliness, unruliness, lawlessness, anarchy
2.3 (a licence to do something) A reason or excuse to do something unacceptable: police say that the lenient sentence is a licence to assault
More example sentences
  • I have been rather busy since my last posting: Tom came back from his stag weekend which sadly was less debauched than he had license to be involved in.
  • The squirearchy does not have some exclusive licence to indulge in barbarism just because grandpa thought slaughter was a sport and the tenants know their place.
  • Giving them free license to print will result in their indiscriminate covering of the entire surface with gadget prints.


Note that in British English licence is the correct spelling for the noun, and is also an acceptable variant spelling of the verb. In US English both noun and verb are spelled license.


licence to print money

A very lucrative commercial activity, regarded as requiring little effort: people see music publishing as a licence to print money
More example sentences
  • Everyone and his dog now knows that commercial radio is a licence to print money, and they all want quick bucks.
  • And that's kind of a license to print money - particularly if you're also trying to make your service the definitive place to buy the media products themselves…
  • A liquor license on Whyte Avenue is generally known to be a license to print money.


Late Middle English: via Old French from Latin licentia 'freedom, licentiousness' (in medieval Latin 'authority, permission'), from licere 'be lawful or permitted'.

  • Latin licere ‘be lawful or permitted’ is the base of licence, which came into English via Old French from Latin licentia ‘freedom, licentiousness’ which in medieval Latin came to mean ‘authority, permission’. The phrase poetic licence, meaning deviation from a recognized rule for artistic effect, is found from the early 16th century. The verb license (Late Middle English) gained its -se spelling from the pattern of noun/verb pairs such as ‘practice’ and ‘practise’. See also shake

Words that rhyme with licence

delicense, license

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: li|cence

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