Definition of loose in US English:



  • 1Not firmly or tightly fixed in place; detached or able to be detached.

    ‘a loose tooth’
    ‘the truck's trailer came loose’
    • ‘He stumbled slightly on a loose board of one of the bridges.’
    • ‘I tripped on a loose stone and hit my head on the wall.’
    • ‘The 15-year-old schoolgirl suffered a perforated eardrum and two loose teeth in the attack by up to five other children, while it was recorded.’
    • ‘The farmer had three loose teeth and another three that were missing.’
    • ‘His brave intervention and the ‘vicious’ attack that followed left Adam with a cracked bone under his eye and loose teeth as well as a broken nose.’
    • ‘Grinding can cause serious problems - broken or cracked teeth, gum problems, tooth sensitivity and even loose teeth.’
    • ‘Tom claims that his sore toe is infected and that his tooth, which is loose, aches.’
    • ‘Their trainers crunched against loose stones as they ran down a narrow dirt alley, bordered by high wooden fencing.’
    • ‘When the roots create a dense network on stony soils it is better gradually to remove loose stones in order to prevent any damage, which may be caused by their movement.’
    • ‘‘The fire brigade went up and down in their skylift several times and removed the loose stones very courageously,’ he said.’
    • ‘Those ten minutes translated into distance as half a mile of wading through six inch deep troughs of muddy water, half a mile of sliding and tripping over loose rocks and embedded stones.’
    • ‘There was no cut to her lip, but a tooth was loose, and blood was welling in the base of it.’
    • ‘I know which paving stone is loose and conceals a puddle, ready to squirt up at unsuspecting commuters.’
    • ‘Check masonry walls for loose stones or mortar, and repoint if necessary.’
    • ‘He scrambled back over loose stones, calling out to her impatiently.’
    • ‘Earlier today, his dad and I had a discussion about the loose tooth.’
    • ‘The stones were loose, making it a treacherous climb.’
    • ‘After heavy overnight rain, they faced very slippery roads, invaded by thick mud and loose stones.’
    • ‘Then somehow, he lost his concentration, pulled on a loose piece of stone, and stumbled backward.’
    • ‘We hope the next flood will wash away this loose stone and it is replaced by a good, hard, smooth surface, which is more environmentally and wheelchair-friendly.’
    not fixed in place, not secure, insecure, unsecured, unattached
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    1. 1.1 Not held or tied together; not packaged or placed in a container.
      ‘wear your hair loose’
      ‘pockets bulging with loose change’
      • ‘In recent years, relatives have added miniature fences and decorative loose stone chippings to some plots in this area of the cemetery, in tribute to their departed loved ones.’
      • ‘I rolled my eyes, tucking a loose curl that had escaped from my messy bun behind my ear.’
      • ‘Leaves and loose blades of grass swirled within it too.’
      • ‘He could feel her tears run down his bare torso, and let himself bury his face within her loose, newly dried hair.’
      • ‘Did they all get together at the end and scrape together lots of loose change after carefully dividing the bill according to work done?’
      • ‘I brush the loose hair that escaped from my hat back away from my face, and lower my scarf to reveal more than just my red cheeks, a pair of eyes and a very red nose.’
      • ‘My feet dangled in the air as I closed my eyes, feeling a chilly breeze brush away the loose hair that had escaped from my braids.’
      • ‘Her hair was loose now, untied from the ponytail and swinging halfway down her back.’
      • ‘The scree consisted of loose blocks of rock of all sizes, held together by frozen soil of smaller particles.’
      • ‘This further complicated the positioning of loose blocks within the meter-thick sequence.’
      • ‘He carefully secures the material around my head, making sure not to snag any loose hairs within the knot and places his hands once more on my shoulders.’
      • ‘While beanbags are safe they pose a risk if loose beads escape from the bean bags.’
      • ‘A book bag or backpack helps keep loose items together.’
      • ‘Bookbinding is a term used to describe the various methods of securing or ‘binding’ together of loose pages into a book.’
      • ‘He picked up some loose pieces of paper and straightened them together by tapping them three times on the podium's surface.’
      • ‘They added that the driveway should be properly surfaced with materials other than loose stone or gravel, in the interests of highway safety.’
      • ‘You can give the loose stone as a gift and choose the setting at a later stage, if you wish.’
      • ‘A loose paper floats from within the bag and floats to the ground.’
      • ‘His hair was long and wild, with loose strands and long bangs that covered his menacing eyes.’
      • ‘The process involves putting down a sticky binding agent and then spreading it with tiny stones, or loose chippings.’
      untied, unpinned, unbound, hanging free, down, flowing, floppy
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    2. 1.2 (of a person or animal) free from confinement; not bound or tethered.
      ‘the bull was loose with cattle in the field’
      ‘the tethered horses broke loose’
      • ‘One moribund duckling was found near loose dogs and presumably was killed by them.’
      • ‘Locals would call to report a loose horse or missing cattle, and he would go out and round up the errant livestock.’
      • ‘We are told that dogs are presently loose in the fields at night, and are a danger to the sheep and their young lambs.’
      • ‘They listed children racing around on quad and motorbikes, noise from buzzing generators, loose horses and animal mess on pavements around the site among their complaints.’
      • ‘This is an area which seems to have many loose dogs about and I suppose they cannot be expected to clear up after themselves.’
      • ‘Many of the runners fell before the final circuit and a succession of riders were toppled when a loose horse ran in front of several racers towards the end of the course.’
      • ‘He looked beaten on the run-in, and was being hampered by a loose horse, but rallied gamely for a thrilling triumph.’
      • ‘As soon as I was loose, I ran to the small window in the room.’
      • ‘But once she was loose, the man on guard spotted her, and shouted for the others to come, while he chased after her.’
      • ‘Over the second fence, a loose horse tore past the ring.’
      • ‘They were out loose and walking along the side of the road.’
      • ‘The two loose donkeys, and many more loose cows, made things interesting as well.’
      • ‘Remarkably, Black Horse had unusual help when the game was held up for ten minutes by a loose horse invading the pitch, avoiding several attempts to be recaptured.’
      • ‘The races were all on the open road, so you had to dodge all kind of obstacles - things like oncoming traffic, pedestrians and loose cows during your races.’
      • ‘I tried to report a loose horse running down Shipton Road, a large horse that could have caused a nasty accident.’
      • ‘All cities have ordinances against unleashed pets, and calling Animal Control about a loose dog will usually get someone to show up.’
      • ‘In the 15 years since the tigers were born, no-one has been inside the compound when the beasts were loose.’
      • ‘Lock up the women and children - the lion is loose!’
      • ‘‘The sheep look as though they are loose, but they're not really,’ he said.’
      • ‘‘We have had complaints from people and I actually saw an accident myself involving a loose horse,’ he said.’
      free, at large, at liberty, on the loose, escaped
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    3. 1.3 (of feces) containing excessive liquid.
      ‘many patients report loose bowel movements’
      • ‘Diarrhea is characterized by frequent loose or liquid stool.’
      • ‘Patients often find that they must restrict or change their diet to avoid excess wind, odour or loose stool.’
      • ‘The diarrhea problems and loose stool problems disappeared.’
      • ‘Phototherapy can give your baby loose stools, temperature problems, or dehydration.’
      • ‘Kidney Yang deficiency can give chronic loose stools or diarrhea.’
      • ‘Runner's diarrhea is frequent, loose bowel movements during or immediately after a run.’
      • ‘Only nurses commonly ascribed nappy rash, feeding problems, pulling ears, loose stools, cold symptoms, and smelly urine to teething.’
      • ‘Diarrhoea was defined as three or more loose, liquid, or watery stools or at least one loose stool containing blood in a 24 hour period.’
    4. 1.4 (of the ball or puck in a game) in play but not in any player's possession.
      • ‘You'll see a couple of loose ball scrambles each game and that's plenty to put a smile on our face.’
      • ‘He blows a whistle, and the defensive players box the offensive players out, trying to keep them from the loose ball.’
      • ‘He played little before this season but is the type of player who can scrape up several extra possessions by diving for loose balls and picking up stray rebounds.’
      • ‘When a mass of players converges upon a loose ball, it is the closest official who must determine possession.’
      • ‘Warn your fellow players of screens, loose balls or anything else that may give you a slight advantage.’
  • 2(of a garment) not fitting tightly or closely.

    ‘she slipped into a loose T-shirt and shorts’
    • ‘The businessmen are dressed in loose shirts and trousers made out of ‘African’ - type materials.’
    • ‘They were instead the baggy costume of a peasant, loose trousers and a short cropped shirt.’
    • ‘The bodice appeared to be rather tight fitting, but the skirt was quite loose and flowing.’
    • ‘It felt good to have the wind rush through my loose garments and hair.’
    • ‘Most were dressed in comfortable, loose clothing, totally practical, which made him wonder why Isabelle had dressed the way she had.’
    • ‘Home again, still a little over-heated, I changed back into shorts and a very loose shirt and cooled down nicely over a cup of excellent espresso.’
    • ‘Alexa slowly traded her T-shirt and khaki pants for shorts and a loose shirt.’
    • ‘Traditional male dress included loose trousers and shirt, with perhaps a robe over that, and a red-felt skullcap.’
    • ‘He was dressed in a loose shirt, a vest, trousers and brown boots.’
    • ‘Fleece garments are loose fitting and don't need the tiny stitches of tailored clothing.’
    • ‘In all operational conditions, airmen should be fully clothed in loose garments for sun protection and reducing sweat loss.’
    • ‘The men were mainly dressed in loose robes and laced leather boots.’
    • ‘They just need to wear loose clothing and if possible they should bring a scarf they can wrap around their hips.’
    • ‘She selected the simplest of the gowns, a well-tailored dress of silver silk with a loose skirt and sleeves.’
    • ‘She was wearing loose trousers and a blouse that hugged her figure quite tightly, all her garments were black.’
    • ‘Men wore loose shirts and trousers made of the same materials.’
    • ‘Barefoot and bare-chested men wore the perfunctory long white pants with drawstrings, and women wore dresses and loose shirts.’
    • ‘In a session the client, dressed in light, loose clothing, rests comfortably on a bodywork table.’
    • ‘I turned to see Aya leaning in the corner, arms folded and dressed in loose shirt and tight shorts.’
    • ‘Clearly emphasising more on the textures and styling, the duo presented an entirely western range with skirts, dresses, jackets and loose trousers.’
    baggy, loose-fitting, easy-fitting, generously cut, slack, roomy, boyfriend
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  • 3Not close or compact in structure.

    ‘a loose weave’
    • ‘High contact pressures cause the feet to penetrate through the loose material and actually compact the soil directly beneath the foot tip.’
    • ‘After you have removed the old flooring, the first thing you need to do is to dig away the loose earth beneath, until you arrive at a solid soil base.’
    • ‘Heavy, tight weave fabrics will burn more slowly than loose weave, light fabrics of the same material.’
    • ‘These have a rather loose weave construction which helps the flavour to release.’
    • ‘These include hot, dry surface soils, shallow planting depths, compact soils, and loose or cloddy soil conditions.’
    • ‘"The Frontier is a relatively loose political grouping compared to other prominent parties, " Lo said.’
    • ‘They coated his back like a bandage, the loose weave unevenly criss-crossing over his thin, muscular body.’
    • ‘The loose federation of independent record shops that went under the banner of the Chain With No Name is not yet the chain with no members, but there are fewer than there used to be.’
    • ‘Periodic meetings of ordained leaders link the districts of a settlement into a loose federation.’
    • ‘It is rumored that the loose Federation idea has some support among the neoconservatives, which is worrisome, since they tend to get what they want.’
    • ‘Overlapping this loose weave are two sets of maroon lines.’
    • ‘It creates a federation of very loose and potentially conflicting states.’
    • ‘Erin had her black hair pinned up under a loose woven hairnet, much like the one that Dylan was wearing.’
    • ‘When plants were grown in a combination of compact and loose soil, the spatial arrangement of the zones determined the shoot response.’
    • ‘The bunches should be spargolo, loose rather than compact, so that air circulates around the individual berries during the all-important drying process.’
    • ‘That's fine for a few moments in the tomato patch, but if you want to spend a full day outside, you should know that the loose weave of straw isn't very good at blocking the sun.’
    • ‘If the weave is loose enough, elastic stretching may give way to pulling through of the fibres to bring about a permanent change of shape.’
    • ‘Although not strictly transparent, the weave is loose enough for it to visually disappear into the background.’
    • ‘The company's units were operating as a very loose federation, linked only by the name.’
    • ‘Look for a natural fabric with a loose, open weave such as burlap or some types of cotton and linen.’
    1. 3.1 Not rigidly organized.
      ‘a loose federation of political groups’
      • ‘Meanwhile, the other party leaders (and John Key) form a fairly loose cluster at the extreme opposite end of the spectrum.’
      • ‘Whether Armitage's proposal was formally adopted or not, "a very loose central government" is what has been created in Afghanistan.’
      • ‘I was also able to practice aikido regularly and was among several of the teachers who created a loose, organizational structure for aikido dojos in Northern California.’
      • ‘Until the end of the twelfth century, the Mongols were little more than a loose confederation of rival clans.’
      • ‘Elected chancellor of the loose union of representatives of the worlds, she played the role of benevolent manager in times of strife.’
    2. 3.2 Relaxed; physically slack.
      ‘she swung back into her easy, loose stride’
      • ‘When trying to kick faster, keep your legs loose and relaxed.’
      • ‘Fight the tendency by keeping your elbows loose and upper body relaxed.’
      • ‘Look for droopy eyelids, slow and deliberate movements or a loose-limbed walk, slow or halting speech, and nausea.’
      • ‘We're striving for horses that gait as soon as they're started under saddle with long loose stride and natural athletic aptitude.’
      • ‘The result is good rhythm,- the easy, loose-limbed walk of a human, not the precise and mincing steps of an automaton.’
      • ‘His chest was still, his face was loose and white, his mouth hung slack.’
      • ‘What you want for singing is, first of all, a loose relaxed neck.’
      • ‘Have the confidence to let the shot go where you know it will, with a loose relaxed grip.’
      • ‘His posture was confident and relaxed, his arms hung loose by his side.’
      • ‘Keep both ankles loose and relaxed inside your boots so you can easily roll them to the sides and increase the depth of your edge set.’
      • ‘When they did leave the ground, he kept his stride even and loose, yet completely controlled.’
      • ‘Take a few practice strokes, and let the shot go with a loose relaxed grip.’
      • ‘As she stood there, contemplating the land, and resting, the muscles of her groin became slack and loose, and the weight of the child in her belly made her want to bear down almost instantly.’
      • ‘He still had his loose-limbed walk and springy gait; the netted wrinkles around his eyes collaborated with his mouth when he smiled.’
      • ‘His arm is hanging so loose at his side you could touch it and it seems it would fall off.’
  • 4Not strict or exact.

    ‘a loose interpretation’
    • ‘In that trial and others a Trial Chamber dwelt on the interpretation of this loose clause.’
    • ‘You need to look at the slow erosion of states' rights, and strict vs. loose constructionism of the Constitution.’
    • ‘I did it in four days and it's a country record… my loose interpretation of what country music is.’
    • ‘Following last year's loose interpretations of what the genre meant, I was expecting something of the sort.’
    • ‘Based on the country's rather loose interpretations of international law it will be interesting to see what they do with him.’
    • ‘By the 1970s, when the project was belatedly put in train, it was rightly judged that the effects of the Clean Air Act justified a loose interpretation of this provision.’
    • ‘The film is a loose interpretation of the final years of Sade's life.’
    • ‘Unfortunately, the drawings give only a loose interpretation of the points' locations.’
    • ‘The writer again represents a loose, not a strict, construction of dietary prohibitions.’
    • ‘Such epic historical recreations in film have in the past left themselves open to severe criticism with their somewhat loose, sometimes ignorant interpretations of fact.’
    • ‘The new signs, in standard yellow and black, are up, and are predictably loose with their interpretation of English.’
    • ‘And though Thai Buddhism forbids the taking of life, the interpretation is loose and the diet is not strictly vegetarian.’
    • ‘He said the guidelines were too loose and their interpretation by local authorities was likely to vary greatly.’
    • ‘Is such a loose interpretation and modification of the well established concept acceptable?’
    • ‘It seems like a rather loose interpretation of the word slave.’
    vague, indefinite, inexact, imprecise, ill-defined, unrigorous, unmeticulous
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    1. 4.1 Careless and indiscreet in what is said.
      ‘there is too much loose talk about the situation’
      • ‘He reports on a near-epidemic of indiscipline, suicides and loose talk’
      • ‘In too many instances, he said, the wives knew a lot about what the Bureau was doing, and they talked about it to excess — so much so that their loose talk might compromise current investigations.’
      • ‘In February 1940 a nationwide campaign was launched that warned the general public against loose talk and the dangers of unwittingly giving information to enemy sympathizers.’
  • 5dated, derogatory Engaging in casual sexual encounters or relationships.

    ‘she ran the risk of being called a loose woman’
    • ‘Some traditional interpreters see this as a stern admonition - this is a loose woman, and she had better change her ways.’
    • ‘A promiscuous woman is a loose woman. Note that in all three propositions, the reference is to sexual promiscuity.’
    • ‘"Do you think Tess is a loose woman?"’
    promiscuous, sexually indiscriminate, of easy virtue, fast, wanton, no better than one should be, unchaste, immoral, impure
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[with object]
  • 1Set free; release.

    ‘the hounds have been loosed’
    • ‘Then another hound was loosened after them.’
    • ‘They loosed huge snakes into the water - anything within range was sucked into the swift murder of the suction.’
    • ‘And I so badly want to surrender, desperate to loose myself but there is nothing.’
    • ‘But with the party members being so mean and ungenerous, well… they'll have to let loose the dogs.’
    • ‘It was a unique chorus that was loosed when he and his colleagues sang their native songs in different dialects.’
    • ‘At the end of the millennial reign, Satan will be loosed and a massive rebellion against the kingdom and a fierce assault against Christ and His saints will occur.’
    • ‘Michael loaded the rest in the boot and got inside, just in case she decided to loose the beast as payback.’
    • ‘Then about 150 years ago the glacial dam burst, loosing a 100-foot, landscape-scouring wave that wiped out entire villages.’
    • ‘We loosed the horses and unpacked our things as we had always done, and I built our fire and warmed our food as I had each night; but tonight we both knew that this was the last time we should live this way.’
    • ‘The prime minister is afraid that his protestations will be lost in the synthetic public outrage that is being loosed by the Eurosceptic media.’
    • ‘One problem with loosing the dogs of war is that sometimes it's hard to get them back on the leash.’
    • ‘Hybrid crops - these are all human-made freaks of nature, that cannot be loosed upon the ecosystem.’
    • ‘The true events at the heart of the film inspire such a sense of injustice that any dramatisation risks the danger of turning into a howl of anguish that points the finger and lets loose the dogs of moral outrage.’
    • ‘The Spaniards also let loose a big dog on shore which chased the terrified Arawaks and bit several of them savagely.’
    • ‘It had began to cause trouble in Sudan as well, loosing cattle, killing civilians, even attacking army forces.’
    free, set free, unloose, turn loose, set loose, let loose, let go, release, liberate
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    1. 1.1 Untie; unfasten.
      ‘the ropes were loosed’
      • ‘With trembling hands, he rose and loosed the ropes from his son.’
      • ‘Just as he had loosed the compass from its rope, the sea gave a mighty heave and tossed the compass from his grip.’
      • ‘At Epsilon's signal, the mercenaries unceremoniously dumped their load at Darkstorm's feet and loosed the ropes that kept it bound.’
      • ‘Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?’
      remove, detach, disentangle, extricate, separate, release, loosen, disconnect, unfasten, unclasp, uncouple, decouple, undo, unhook, unloose, unhitch, untie, unyoke, disentwine
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    2. 1.2 Relax (one's grip)
      ‘he loosed his grip suddenly’
      • ‘He relaxed, and Lea loosed her grip, but again didn't release him.’
      • ‘But he never loosed his grip, and inch by inch he hauled the beast, hanging like a drowned jackal, up on the branch.’
      • ‘The hands that once gripped her arms loosed, the woman herself tensing with boiling rage as she jerked away from their now light and effortless hands.’
      • ‘His grip sluggishly loosed and his head slowly rested on the couch.’
      • ‘The impact hit his knuckles, making him loose his grip and slip downwards.’
      • ‘Suddenly Sara elbowed him in the ribs causing him to loose his grip on her.’
      • ‘Ryder frowned at the new title but knew it was probably for the best, he loosed his grip and kissed her cheek ‘Its ok, now, change into this dress.’’
      • ‘Mira watched in shock as his grip loosed, and he slid noiselessly to the floor, his mouth open in a surprised ‘oh’.’
      • ‘Mick loosed his grip and sat her down on her desk, fencing her in with his arms.’
      • ‘His breathing grew quiet, and he loosed his grip on me, and kissed my face and said my name over and over.’
      • ‘He said with authority as he cautiously began to untangle himself to stand up and make more of an impact without loosing his grip on Marissa.’
      • ‘Maya's feet slipped on the mud, causing her to slip and slide while loosing her grip on the jug.’
      • ‘I was actually beginning to think that we were having a romantic moment when he suddenly loosed his grip on me.’
      • ‘Clark couldn't help but smile as he loosed his grip to brush some snow from the end of her nose with his mitten.’
      • ‘Mr. Lake's hold on her arm had loosed from the sharp grip to a more gentle clasp, and it even seemed that his steps had slowed a bit.’
      relax, slacken, loosen
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The adjective loose, meaning ‘not tight,’ should not be confused with the verb loose, which means ‘let go’: they loosed the reins and let the horse gallop. This verb in turn should not be confused with the verb lose, which means ‘be deprived of, fail to keep’: I will lose my keys if I don't mend the hole in my pocket


  • hang (or stay) loose

    • informal often as imperativeBe relaxed; refrain from taking anything too seriously.

      ‘hang loose, baby!’
      • ‘Hopefully this will restore my good humour: I need to hang loose and laugh for an hour or so.’
      • ‘Besides, I figured I could do more good if I stayed loose.’
      • ‘Some enjoy jabbering to everyone in sight, listening to music, and staying loose.’
      • ‘The key I believe is to stay loose and just write whatever pops into your head.’
      • ‘I hate to give him credit for anything, but guys like him and Jason have helped this team stay loose and get through some horrible things.’
      • ‘I like to stay loose, and I don't want my concentration to peak too early.’
      • ‘So stay loose, study hard, continue to hone your skills, play level headed, and above all, play to win!’
      • ‘Still, if you go in not expecting very much, and relax and just hang loose, you will find a lot to smile about.’
      • ‘He likes to joke around and is tremendous about creating a positive atmosphere so the guys can stay loose.’
      • ‘‘Just chill out and hang loose,’ she said knowingly.’
      relax, become relaxed, unwind, ease off, ease up, become less rigid
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  • on the loose

    • Having escaped from confinement.

      ‘a serial killer is on the loose’
      • ‘The horrific events of the weekend, and the realisation that a dangerous killer is on the loose, has heightened fear of crime.’
      • ‘There has been a report that a criminal who has escaped from prison is on the loose and is likely to kill again.’
      • ‘No one was interested in going to a school with a serial killer on the loose, no matter how prestigious it was.’
      • ‘The predominantly rural force has found itself thrust into the national spotlight with a brutal killer still on the loose.’
      • ‘The police detectives at the scene quickly realised there was a serial killer on the loose.’
      • ‘A prisoner who went on the run on Sunday night is still on the loose.’
      • ‘Her husband restrained the thief until help arrived, but he later managed to escape and is still on the loose.’
      • ‘Up to five other wild cats are believed to be on the loose in the North.’
      • ‘To complicate matters, an escaped killer is on the loose, having hitched a ride on the truck.’
      • ‘Police hand out safety advice and shriek alarms but call for calm in the community amid fears that a serial attacker is on the loose.’
      free, at large, at liberty, escaped
      free, at liberty, at large, escaped, set loose, unconfined, unrestrained, roaming, unbound, unrestricted, untied, unchained, unshackled, unfettered
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Middle English loos ‘free from bonds’, from Old Norse lauss, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch and German los.