Definition of licentious in English:



  • 1Promiscuous and unprincipled in sexual matters:

    ‘the ruler's tyrannical and licentious behaviour’
    ‘the licentious avenues of New York City’
    • ‘All the accused men were well known for their licentious behaviour and for this reason possibly became easy targets for incrimination.’
    • ‘But the worshippers and admirers of these gods delight in imitating their scandalous iniquities, and are nowise concerned that the republic be less depraved and licentious.’
    • ‘However, the libidinous cad may find many pleasures in the licentious glance along the pew.’
    • ‘Martin Luther, in guiding the 16 th-century church back to the apostolic teaching of salvation by grace through faith active in love, was aware that the gospel of grace is so freeing that it might become an excuse for licentious behavior.’
    • ‘That does not mean there should be no sanction for misbehaviour or licentious behaviour.’
    • ‘I myself visited a striptease establishment in the early 1970s and found the experience detumescent and soporific rather than conducive to licentious behaviour.’
    • ‘This process is naturally the opposite of that employed by the forgetful Don Juan, the master figure of our sexually licentious age.’
    • ‘The example of harmonious and industrious living set by the missionaries was continually undermined by the licentious behaviour of visiting European traders.’
    • ‘World famous, he is also a great womanizer, acknowledged as such by his colleagues, wife, and friends who themselves enjoy an entertainingly licentious social and sexual life.’
    • ‘Brutal, licentious, violent and debauched as it was, however, ancient Rome is relevant still.’
    • ‘Take the measure of any season - none of them turns up more coconut oil, string bikinis and licentious behavior than summer.’
    • ‘He censures the licentious behavior which the picaro's freedom implies and from which the hero could abstain through his free will.’
    • ‘Civic fathers, fearing for the virtue of their daughters and the sobriety of their sons, lamented the corrupting presence of the ‘drunken and licentious soldiery’.’
    • ‘He used the stock characters of traditional Italian comedy, but cleaned up their characteristic ridiculous licentious behaviour in an attempt to introduce a higher moral tone.’
    • ‘And they are very far from any thought that their licentious groupings would provide an avenue for the emergence of a patriarch with a retinue of teen-wives.’
    • ‘The poet Philip Larkin noted that sexual intercourse began in 1963, but a long suppressed study has shown that Britain indulged in licentious behaviour long before the dawn of the permissive society, writes Tom Baird.’
    • ‘The extravagant lifestyle and licentious ways of some of them became the subject matter of book and films.’
    • ‘His popularity was apparent early at Eton, where he was given the nickname Buck, which, as the author points out, was a common term for ‘sexually licentious Londoners’.’
    • ‘Though in his youth he had been much addicted to intemperance and licentious pleasures, after he had ranked himself among philosophers he was never known to violate the laws of sobriety or chastity.’
    • ‘Track down that effeminate foreigner who plagues our women with this new disease, and fouls the whole land with licentious lechery.’
    dissolute, dissipated, debauched, degenerate, salacious, immoral, wanton, decadent, depraved, profligate, impure, sinful, wicked, corrupt, indecent, libertine
    lustful, lecherous, lascivious, libidinous, prurient, lubricious, lewd, promiscuous, unchaste, carnal, fleshly, intemperate, abandoned
    ribald, risqué, smutty, dirty, filthy, coarse, perverted
    horny, raunchy, naughty, pervy
    concupiscent, lickerish
    View synonyms
  • 2archaic Disregarding accepted conventions, especially in grammar or literary style.

    • ‘In Paris it was welcomed by a public with a strong appetite for the irreverent and licentious in literature, and probably for subversive ideas of any kind in philosophy and theology.’


Late Middle English: from Latin licentiosus, from licentia freedom.