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  • 1. a. Exemption or release from captivity, bondage, or slavery.
b. In religious use: Freedom from the bondage of sin, or of the law.
  • 2. a. Exemption or freedom from arbitrary, despotic, or autocratic rule or control. cap of liberty: see CAP n.1 4f.
b. natural liberty: the state in which every one is free to act as he thinks fit, subject only to the laws of nature. civil liberty: natural liberty so far restricted by established law as is expedient or necessary for the good of the community. liberty of conscience: the system of things in which a member of a state is permitted to follow without interference the dictates of his conscience in the profession of any religious creed or the exercise of any mode of worship. liberty of the press: the recognition by the state of the right of any one to print and publish whatever he pleases without previous governmental permission.

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The liberty of the press is not understood to imply absence of liability to judicial punishment for the publication of libellous or criminal matter, nor to be inconsistent with the right of the courts to prohibit a particular publication as involving a wrong to some person.

  • 3. a. The condition of being able to act in any desired way without hindrance or restraint; faculty or power to do as one likes.
b. Philos. The condition of being free from the control of fate or necessity (Now chiefly in expressed antithesis to necessity; the phrase liberty of the will occurs, but freedom is more common in this connexion.)
  • 4. a. Free opportunity, range, or scope to do or of doing something; hence, leave, permission.
b. Unrestricted use of, or access to, permission to go anywhere within the limits of: chiefly in phr. to have the liberty of.
c. Naut. Leave of absence. (Cf. liberty man in 10.)
  • 5. a. Unrestrained action, conduct, or expression; freedom of behavior or speech, beyond what is granted or recognized as proper; licence. (Occas. personified.) Now only in particularized sense: An instance of freedom, an overstepping or setting aside of rules; a licence.
b. Phr. to take the liberty to do or of doing something: to go so far beyond the bounds of civility or propriety, be so presumptuous as to (etc.). to take liberties (or a liberty): to be unduly or improperly familiar (with a person; sometimes euphemistic); to use freedom in dealing with (rules, facts, etc.).
  • 6. As a feminine personification; with reference to the preceding senses, esp. sense 2.
  • 7. Law. a. A privilege or exceptional right granted to a subject by the sovereign power.
b. pl. (rarely collect. sing.) Privileges, immunities, or rights enjoyed by prescription or by grant.
c. Hence occas. a person's domain or property. The district over which a person's or corporation's privilege extends. Also (in England before 1850), a district within the limits of a county, but exempt from the jurisdiction of the sheriff, and having a separate commission of the peace. (See also quot. 1876.) liberty or liberties of a city: the district, extending beyond the bounds of the city, which is subject to the control of the municipal authority. liberties of a prison (esp. the Fleet and the Marshalsea in London): the limits outside the prison, within which prisoners were sometimes permitted to reside.
  • 8. liberty of the tongue (see quot.). So F. liberté.
  • 9. Governed by at, forming advb. or predicative phrase. a. at one's liberty (later at liberty): at one's own choice, as one pleases, ‘ad libitum’.
b. at (a person's) liberty: in his power or at his disposal. Obs.
c. at liberty (in early use at one's or one's own liberty, at all, good, liberty): not in captivity or confinement; esp. in phr. to set at liberty, to liberate, free. Also, free to act, move, think, etc.; const. to with inf., occas. with clause.
d. at liberty: (of persons or things) unoccupied, disengaged.


"Liberty is a benefit bestowed by spiritual vision". Abraham