Definition of license in US English:


(British licence)


  • 1A permit from an authority to own or use something, do a particular thing, or carry on a trade (especially in alcoholic beverages)

    ‘a gun license’
    as modifier ‘vehicle license fees’
    • ‘Any change in the terms of this licence will require the permission of the Governors.’
    • ‘In some cases, it says that such sites have been operating without a permit or licence for more than 20 years.’
    • ‘No tenancy or licence exists giving you permission to be there.’
    • ‘In the US it is mandatory for teenagers to receive formal training before they are given a driver's licence.’
    • ‘A pilot's license gives them permission to knock on the door.’
    • ‘North West Radio are expected to hold on to their licence when the new franchise winners are announced this evening.’
    • ‘They have also indicated an intention to grant a form of license, which would permit only the acceptance of clay and topsoil at the landfill for the purpose of restoration and landscaping.’
    • ‘The licence, officially known as an International Shipping Approval, carries the right of renewal for a further 12 months.’
    • ‘He expects to receive an official banking license soon.’
    • ‘It is the official licence holder for the English, Scottish and German football associations and most of the Premiership and Nationwide League clubs.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The aviation authority said the company could fly charters, but that license expires in two months.’
    • ‘Apparently we needed to sign in front of an official so that our learner's license could be processed.’
    • ‘All stockings must first be washed in an approved disinfectant and hung on boundary gateposts together with a copy of the official licence.’
    • ‘He had had no official schooling, no driver's licence, no electoral registration.’
    • ‘Anglers are reminded that this competition is open to everyone and no permit or license is required.’
    • ‘I wanted to have that date on my licence, and the officials said no.’
    • ‘If you do not obtain this licence, any police officer or relevant council official can force you to move on and you may even find your way onto a blacklist.’
    • ‘The licence grants permission to the licencee to make copies of the work.’
    1. 1.1 Formal or official permission to do something.
      ‘logging is permitted under license from the Forest Service’
      • ‘She added that the franchise license from the Miss World Pageant was especially difficult to obtain.’
      • ‘They have given us license and permission to do it.’
      • ‘Several hundred were manufactured under licence in the USSR.’
      • ‘However, they cannot travel without strict permission and license from the King.’
      • ‘The aircraft is being manufactured in Pakistan under license from Sweden, the paper said.’
      • ‘The automatic transmission, manufactured under licence from Renk of Ausburg in Germany, has five forward gears and one reverse gear.’
      • ‘The Government said it would allow hunting to continue under licence but could not control its own party, the result being a ban of sorts.’
      • ‘Most will be manufactured under license from Russia.’
      • ‘A number of international goods are manufactured locally under license.’
      • ‘So far, two ice cream manufacturers have managed to snag the official license for low-carb super-premium ice cream products.’
      • ‘The system is supplied by Lockheed Martin based in New York and has also been manufactured under licence by Mitsubishi in Japan.’
      • ‘The Museum has granted Art In Motion the official license to publish its ‘Rosenfeld Collection’’
      • ‘They've been given tacit permission, if not license, to hurl themselves at them.’
      • ‘The method is not permitted in Australia, although permission under licence can be obtained by scientists in the UK.’
      • ‘Teams are actually franchises that operate under licence from MLB.’
    2. 1.2 A writer's or artist's freedom to deviate from fact or from conventions such as grammar, meter, or perspective, for effect.
      ‘artistic license’
      • ‘Besides, every cobweb in the room is not necessarily worth a five-paragraph description, even after you provide adequate flexibility towards artistic license.’
      • ‘Nevertheless, the apparent mixture of fact and fantasy in this part of the composition underlines the fact that he may sometimes have indulged in artistic licence.’
      • ‘It is trickery, it is debauchery, it is an attempt to make a box office killing in the name of an artist's licence of creativity.’
      • ‘It also presents fantasy as fact, and for the unaware and the credulous, this is more than an exercise in poetic license; it is artistic and historical dishonesty.’
      • ‘Although there is some dramatic license, the writers and director have clearly done their research into the condition.’
      • ‘And did you have to sort of take a bit of dramatic license with the facts?’
      • ‘Although I rant, there's no doubt that creative contributions from the world's artists would be poorer in the absence of artistic license.’
      • ‘Even if one forgives his poetic license with the facts, the book fails on the grounds that its arguments are incoherent.’
      • ‘We have creative license as artists and we must defend this right.’
      • ‘Though their logos still appear on game boxes it is simply artistic license; as independent entitles they have ceased to exist.’
      • ‘He was a playwright and memoirist who clearly believed in a writer's artistic license to embroider.’
      • ‘My feeling is that the writer has license to write his/her version of the truth, as it serves the work's intent, veracity, and aesthetic.’
      • ‘Indeed, that was a wonderful exercise of licence, given the fact that the Act for hazardous substances came into force in July 2001.’
      • ‘It's basically a bit of licence, an artist's impression.’
      • ‘I had to use other means to reach my end - invoking a writer's fictional licence in a few minor instances where I couldn't verify the facts - but reached it was.’
      • ‘I guess Conrad's just practicing some artistic license.’
      • ‘Okay, so maybe the movie takes a little artistic license with the facts.’
      • ‘Organizations hoping to discredit him claim he manipulates facts and stretches artistic license.’
      • ‘The overall effect is what you're after, and artistic license forgives slight errors.’
      • ‘Your artist friend also has taken more than slight artistic license.’
    3. 1.3 Freedom to behave as one wishes, especially in a way that results in excessive or unacceptable behavior.
      ‘the government was criticized for giving the army too much license’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The unchecked power of corrupt rural officials has given them license to tax the peasants beyond endurable limits and to pack the public payroll with relatives and cronies.’
      • ‘By avoiding the messiness of debate that a real democracy requires, we have given license to the excesses we now bemoan.’
      • ‘Rather than promoting self control and continent behaviour, we are encouraging unlimited licence.’
      • ‘And a nation which is treated like children will behave childishly, in perpetual reaction against its lack of licence.’
    4. 1.4a license to do something A reason or excuse to do something wrong or excessive.
      ‘police say that the lenient sentence is a license to assault’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘In particular, the province's vaguely defined outcomes-based curriculum can be seen by teachers as licence to teach whatever they wish.’
      • ‘The licence to kill is permission, but his overwhelming charisma is the mandate.’
      • ‘Giving them free license to print will result in their indiscriminate covering of the entire surface with gadget prints.’
      • ‘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.’


[with object]
  • 1Grant a license to (someone or something) to permit the use of something or to allow an activity to take place.

    ‘brokers must be licensed to sell health-related insurance’
    with object and infinitive ‘he ought not to have been licensed to fly a plane’
    • ‘The Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 requires a keeper of a dangerous wild animal to be licensed by the local authority and to take out insurance against liability to third parties.’
    • ‘If you're doing that sort of activity you need to be licenced, and we'd prefer to be neutral in our approach to the particular medium that you're using to do that.’
    • ‘Each signed a separate agreement and each agreement provided that the licensor might also occupy the premises or might license others to occupy jointly with the licensees.’
    • ‘He also confirmed that the warehouse was licensed for fireworks storage, but could not explain why it was situated dangerously close to a residential area.’
    • ‘How low can the TV licensing authority sink in their pursuit of people not paying their licence fee?’
    • ‘The hotel is licensed to perform civil ceremonies and the suites can cater for up to 80 people.’
    • ‘I've heard reports that some of the Landfill sites accept waste that they are not licensed to accept.’
    • ‘According to the reviews the extent of knowledge gained by such measures as performance in licensing examinations is at best unclear.’
    • ‘Small films without extensive music licensing budgets would have to attract bands based on the quality of the film.’
    • ‘He said the company would continue to work with City of York Council licensing chiefs to find a proposal that could be acceptable to all parties.’
    • ‘It accuses authorities of allowing dumps to operate without a licence, 20 years after agreeing to licence them.’
    • ‘The authority to license television stations, sanction newspapers and to regulate cell phone companies was recently transferred to a commission whose members were chosen by the US.’
    • ‘The Alberta government recently licensed a private hospital to perform hip surgery, using a facility that was closed down by the same government.’
    • ‘Bexley Council's licensing committee was due to give the plan its approval last night.’
    • ‘A vehicle with seven seats or less, like a black cab, was classed as a taxi and had to be licensed by the local authority.’
    • ‘Bars run by York University could win the right to open until the small hours - if licensing chiefs agree.’
    permit, allow, authorize, give a licence to, grant a licence to, give a permit to, grant a permit to, give authorization to, grant authorization to, give authority to, grant authority to, give the right to, grant the right to, give leave to, grant leave to, give permission to, grant permission to
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Authorize the use, performance, or release of (something)
      ‘the drug is already licensed for human use’
      ‘he was required to delete certain scenes before the film could be licensed for showing’
      • ‘The result: both will soon tire of the cost and settle out-of-court, opting to license each other's intellectual property.’
      • ‘Hypericum perforatum extracts are licensed in continental Europe for the treatment of depression and anxiety.’
      • ‘The UK licensing authorities were slow to license it for the condition.’
      • ‘Is it your hope that they will agree to license your technologies, or do you hope to force them to withdraw from the market?’
      • ‘And since it also licenses its music for commercial use, I reasoned that film students have to eventually graduate, and will then want to pay for our music because of our earlier generosity.’
      • ‘The publishers are trying to get this changed, for until it is there are a number of authors' agents who won't let the publishers license their authors' audiobooks to audible.’
      • ‘Soon after it was licensed and introduced in the US, stray cases of polio were observed within the incubation period of its administration to children.’
      • ‘It revealed on Saturday how the firm was dumped amid allegations it had not made enough effort to license its sites.’
      • ‘If he thinks he can get money for licensing the music for this film, he'll probably do it.’
      • ‘There were difficulties in obtaining a licence to publish the Dialogue, and soon after it was licensed at Rome the sudden death of Prince Cesi disorganized the Lincean Academy which had intended to publish it.’
      • ‘But that was me being short-sighted - soon, people starting asking if they could license the code for commercial use, or hire me.’
      • ‘There was no way a video game maker's going to license their title for the film.’
      • ‘If they were to have the use of these codes, they would be able to maintain, modify or even license the Object Codes.’
      • ‘The new authority plans to licence all private wheel clampers by the same date.’
      • ‘They're screening the film on the 18th September but haven't licensed this new soundtrack which might have created more interest.’
      permit, allow, authorize, give a licence to, grant a licence to, give a permit to, grant a permit to, give authorization to, grant authorization to, give authority to, grant authority to, give the right to, grant the right to, give leave to, grant leave to, give permission to, grant permission to
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2dated Give permission to (someone) to do something.
      with object and infinitive ‘he was licensed to do no more than send a message’
      • ‘At worst it licenses us to hate and abuse those who are different.’
      • ‘The friendship licensed him to write love-letters which he could deny were love-letters even as he nudged her into thinking that they were.’


  • license to print money

    • A very lucrative commercial activity, typically one perceived as requiring little effort.

      • ‘A liquor license on Whyte Avenue is generally known to be a license to print money.’
      • ‘When exploited properly it's a license to print money, capable of earning its purchase price within a few years.’
      • ‘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 private company, subsidised by the taxpayer, is given a license to print money at our expense.’
      • ‘Everyone and his dog now knows that commercial radio is a licence to print money, and they all want quick bucks.’
      • ‘For awhile, starting an Internet company and taking it public was a license to print money.’
      • ‘What it's meant is handing over to them a license to print money so that they are awash with profits at the same time as being morally bankrupt.’
      • ‘It used to be a license to print money but no more.’
      • ‘France and the UK are currently engaged in a tussle to see who controls such an agency which promises to become a license to print money for the eventual winner.’
      • ‘Being a sexy girl in a soap is 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’.