Definition of liberty in US English:



  • 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’
    • ‘Should we trade liberty for security?’
    • ‘Tariff taxes precipitated both independence movements, and both were based on the view that liberty and free trade were of a piece.’
    • ‘Now, we are talking about the liberty of the citizen, are we not?’
    • ‘We have adopted the value of individual liberty from the Western societies, without learning their manners.’
    • ‘In addition to providing society with political liberty and justice, a single tax on land promotes economic efficiency.’
    • ‘How far should a government go in restricting the personal liberty of its people in the hope of defeating terrorism?’
    • ‘Technology has the capability to impose graduated restrictions on liberty, but this is an issue the Government is specifically avoiding confronting.’
    • ‘Individual liberty and free enterprise are feminism's best friends.’
    • ‘He seems to have just discovered that, although economic liberty is needed for economic development, you can have economic liberty without much political liberty.’
    • ‘Some British radicals argued, too, that overseas conquest bred autocratic habits, which then threatened liberty at home.’
    • ‘Libertarians believe in individual liberty, small government and free markets.’
    • ‘By contrast, societies that trade liberty for security, as Ben Franklin noted, end often with neither.’
    • ‘Americans are now enjoying the fruits of two centuries of individual liberty and free markets.’
    • ‘In Condorcet's view modern society and individual liberty could be served only by public instruction understood in this sense.’
    • ‘Reduce the power of democracy, thereby freeing individual liberty.’
    • ‘Still, Rand was the most successful and widely read popularizer of the ideas of individual liberty and the free market of her day.’
    • ‘Individual liberty exists within the context of the rule of law and limits on government power, i.e., constitutional liberalism.’
    • ‘I'd add a few things to that - like individual liberty and free trade - but she's basically on the right track.’
    • ‘Similarly, economic equality requires curtailing individual liberty.’
    • ‘Therefore the fundamental purpose of the state is to limit liberty in the name of security.’
    independence, freedom, autonomy, sovereignty, self government, self rule, self determination, home rule
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    1. 1.1 The state of not being imprisoned or enslaved.
      ‘people who have lost property or liberty without due process’
      • ‘The convicted thief will lose his right to liberty by being placed in prison.’
      • ‘The 14th Amendment said the formerly enslaved could not be deprived of life, liberty, or property.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I had lost my liberty, but they wanted to punish me on top of that.’
      • ‘The crimes that the men committed are contemptible and grave, and the men deserve to lose their liberty for them.’
      • ‘You lose your liberty, as he did for three weeks.’
      • ‘I refer in particular to the fact that, in order for my client to lose his liberty, two decisions have to be taken.’
      • ‘She added that the amendment would make it difficult for judges who had to decide on house arrest but if people had to lose their liberty she would prefer it to be on the say so of a judge rather than a politician.’
      • ‘There may be a crime against humanity where there is a serious deprivation of physical liberty short of imprisonment.’
      • ‘Mr Maxwell added that the defendant had been making steps towards living a proper lifestyle and, if she lost her liberty, she would be back to square one.’
      • ‘Any solicitor could advise him that he has no fears of losing his liberty.’
      • ‘Finally, there is no compensation for the five men who lost 20 months of liberty as punishment for a crime they did not commit.’
      • ‘It is plain that the purpose of a licence is to enable the long-term prisoner to stay out of trouble, both for his own benefit and for the benefit of the community, and so that thereby he does not lose his liberty.’
      • ‘May I remind you that if you drive while disqualified over the next two years, you could lose your liberty.’
      • ‘The applicants have claimed that their removal and detention constituted wrongful imprisonment and deprivation of liberty.’
      • ‘While there is nothing significant about the circumstances in which the appellant lost his liberty in that case, the facts are very different from here.’
      • ‘Even though I would come to choose the barracks over the jail house I know what it is to lose your liberty.’
      • ‘Mrs Camidge said: ‘For the last two months he has been living in fear of losing his liberty through his foolishness.’’
      • ‘People lose their lives and liberty in the struggle for democracy, which tells me that elections must be a good thing.’
      • ‘They lost their liberty, their livelihoods, their communities, and their possessions.’
      free, on the loose, loose, set loose, at large, unconfined, roaming
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    2. 1.2usually liberties A right or privilege, especially a statutory one.
      ‘the Bill of Rights was intended to secure basic civil liberties’
      • ‘Before adopting the world's norms, we should ask whether those norms protect these rights and liberties, and live up to the principles that have served us so well for so long.’
      • ‘He says currently human rights and fundamental liberties are not enshrined clearly and completely anywhere in Australian legislation.’
      • ‘In this sense, the king may repeal parliament, common law, and liberties at will.’
      • ‘We believed that our rights, privileges and liberties did not derive from the king or government, but rather were a gift from god.’
      • ‘Conversely, countries currently enjoying religious liberties are expected to show increases in religiosity with time.’
      • ‘It is the means by which a court, exercising its power to determine guilt, guards rights and liberties of those accused by requiring proof up to a certain standard.’
      • ‘The Great Charter confirmed previous royal charters and incorporates previous liberties, privileges and exemptions, which the city had formerly enjoyed.’
      • ‘Individuals will respond by sacrificing personal liberties for increased security, and by resolving that normal life must go on.’
      • ‘Political rights and liberties are permissive advantages, and their effectiveness depends on how they are exercised.’
      • ‘Essential civil and political liberties have been denied so systematically that they may as well be luxuries.’
      • ‘People's basic liberties are taken away in this measure.’
      • ‘When the framers of the constitution were first debating it, few people imagined that Congress would prove to be the basic guarantor of American liberties.’
      • ‘It is accordingly not a right to exercise liberties (such as free speech or association) within a prison's walls.’
      • ‘Government itself was formed so that every member of society may be protected and secured in the peaceable quiet possession and enjoyment of all those liberties and privileges which the deity has bestowed upon him.’
      • ‘By aggressively expanding the scope of free institutions worldwide, we ultimately guarantee our own liberties at home.’
      • ‘There will always be those who abuse certain privileges or liberties, but those few cannot ruin an entitlement for the rest.’
      • ‘The Ausgleich was a complicated balance of royal prerogatives and national liberties.’
      • ‘Disorder provides an excuse to rescind liberties in the name of restoring calm.’
      • ‘A Bill of Rights was soon added to the constitution specifically to protect the individual liberties of citizens.’
      • ‘The political liberties have a central importance in making well-being human.’
      right, birthright, opportunity, facility, prerogative, entitlement, privilege, permission, sanction, leave, consent, authorization, authority, licence, clearance, blessing, dispensation, exemption, faculty
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    3. 1.3 The personification of liberty as a female figure.
      ‘the Statue of Liberty’
      • ‘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’
    • ‘She knows from bitter experience what it means to lose that basic liberty we all take for granted.’
    • ‘Even hardcore libertarians accept restrictions on liberty when the behavior harms others.’
    • ‘No libertarian could possibly construct a justification for violating the liberty of another person.’
    • ‘If you were a white male Protestant property owner, then you enjoyed substantial 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 is a condition of the mind: this means that you have the internal power to exercise your liberty.’
    • ‘After all, university is, for many students, the first opportunity to exercise real liberty.’
    • ‘For example, preventing someone from stealing is not a restriction on their liberty, on this view, since they had no right to steal.’
    freedom, independence, free rein, freeness, licence, self-determination
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    1. 2.1Philosophy A person's freedom from control by fate or necessity.
      • ‘There would also be a loss of liberty or freedom for the morally wicked, since they would be punished or otherwise made to suffer.’
      • ‘Hobbes couched the argument in terms of liberty vs. necessity, rather than free vs. externally determined will.’
      • ‘If Aristotle loved liberty, he did not love it enough.’
      • ‘He said in part that Hobbes's freedom or liberty, which amounts to not being frustrated, is no great thing.’
      • ‘It would, I think, be generally agreed that he has laid down a necessary condition of liberty.’
    2. 2.2Nautical Shore leave granted to a sailor.
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘During the INR, Sailors were given liberty to go explore the Big Apple.’
      • ‘A Sailor, on liberty in a foreign port, was returning to his ship when a knife-wielding assassin attacked him.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘‘It's good to take time out from the ship and enjoy some liberty,’ Joe added.’
  • 3informal A presumptuous remark or action.

    ‘how did he know what she was thinking?—it was a liberty!’
    act with overfamiliarity, act with familiarity, show disrespect, act with impropriety, act indecorously, be impudent, commit a breach of etiquette, act with boldness, act with impertinence, show insolence, show impudence, show presumptuousness, show presumption, show forwardness, show audacity, be unrestrained
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  • at liberty

    • 1Not imprisoned.

      ‘he was at liberty for three months before he was recaptured’
      • ‘It seems to me either he is at liberty or he is not, and the imposition of conditions assumes the residue of power is still being exercised.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘So far, Russia's other oligarchs are at liberty, and their companies remain intact.’
      • ‘The third point is that the second applicant had opportunity to abscond in the four months during which he was at liberty.’
      • ‘The defendant remained at liberty under his original bond of $35,000.’
      • ‘After they were set at liberty they did not lose sight of them.’
      • ‘It is well known that people are more likely to commit suicide when they are in prison or in a police cell than when they are at liberty.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He ought not to be kept in custodial limbo indefinitely, entitled neither to a hearing of the case against him nor to be set at liberty.’
      • ‘On the alternative formulation the prisoner in that situation would be at liberty (albeit on licence).’
      free, on the loose, loose, set loose, at large, unconfined, roaming
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    • 2Allowed or entitled to do something.

      ‘competent adults are generally at liberty to refuse medical treatment’
      • ‘I could explain, but for the first time in two months, I am at liberty to do absolutely nothing at all and as you might guess, I'm really quite eager to get going on that.’
      • ‘The parties shall be at liberty in the interim, through counsel, to propose a candidate or candidates for the position of guardian of the person and guardian of the property.’
      • ‘Up to then it had been wholly outside my experience (and also my naive expectations) that police officers were seemingly at liberty to heartily abuse members of the citizenry.’
      • ‘I'm not at liberty to say, because I am not positive.’
      • ‘We're only talking about an incontrovertible fact of revelation for Catholics, which we are no more at liberty to destroy than the doctrine of the Trinity.’
      • ‘In fact, a principal authority is at liberty to withdraw the functions assigned to an agent.’
      • ‘The mountains are still free, and we're all at liberty to climb them largely as we desire.’
      • ‘Desdemona said a friend was storing valuables there, and she wasn't at liberty to allow them in.’
      • ‘It is too soon yet in our country to say that every man who cannot find employment, but who can find uncultivated land, shall be at liberty to cultivate it, paying a moderate rent.’
      • ‘We are being put at risk, because patients are free to roam and at liberty to abscond.’
      free, permitted, allowed, authorized, able, entitled, eligible, fit
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  • take liberties

    • 1Behave in an unduly familiar manner toward a person.

      ‘you've taken too many liberties with me’
      • ‘I got on well with my teammates, but I think that would have been taking liberties towards the club.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He was a man with whom it was impossible to imagine the most audacious student venturing to take a liberty.’
      • ‘Over time, the children of family members may take liberties that when left unchecked, become real problems.’
      act with overfamiliarity, act with familiarity, show disrespect, act with impropriety, act indecorously, be impudent, commit a breach of etiquette, act with boldness, act with impertinence, show insolence, show impudence, show presumptuousness, show presumption, show forwardness, show audacity, be unrestrained
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    • 2Treat something freely, without strict faithfulness to the facts or to an original.

      ‘the scriptwriter has taken few liberties with the original narrative’
      • ‘For Parker, the traditionalists who accuse him of taking liberties are one of the targets.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘It's a liberty I choose to take with my chosen brand of fiction.’
      • ‘The exact wording of the contract gave him a tiny amount of wiggle room but he was still taking an enormous liberty.’
      • ‘I'll take liberties creating new melodies while still preserving the integrity of the tune.’
      • ‘In the commentary, Wright remarks on several other liberties he and the other filmmakers took.’
      • ‘Although he followed the form of the drawing the inker took liberties with the face and the musculature.’
      • ‘Doing so is disingenuous, and takes liberties with the facts and the policy of this matter.’
      • ‘I had to take liberties in the name of science.’
      • ‘Although I've taken a little liberty with it, it was told to me as a supposed true story.’
  • 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’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘We took the liberty of marking up the photo to illustrate your points.’
      • ‘Since she owned the paper, she took the liberty of searching out and reporting her own stories.’
      • ‘Yesterday, Apple took the liberty of launching their newest iPod, called the iPod Nano.’
      • ‘I took the liberty of fiddling with the scansion in Lines 3 and 7.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I'm taking the liberty of passing along two short poems of my own; please do keep submitting yours, and please pass along the call for submissions to others.’
      • ‘Mark, while you were away from your desk I took the liberty of sorting the unopened incoming mail for you.’
      • ‘I took the liberty of putting down a deposit for you - or should I call it an ‘up-front payment’?’
      • ‘While the establishment seemed to spoil the rich, she took the liberty to pamper the poor.’


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