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ad lib

[ad lib, ad] /æd ˈlɪb, ˈæd/
something improvised in speech, music, etc.:
Was that joke part of your speech or an ad lib?
at one's pleasure; without restriction.
freely; as needed; without stint:
Water can be given to the patients ad lib.
Origin of ad lib
1810-20; see ad libitum


[ad-lib, ad-] /ædˈlɪb, ˈæd-/
verb (used with object), ad-libbed, ad-libbing.
to improvise all or part of (a speech, a piece of music, etc.):
to ad-lib one's lines.
verb (used without object), ad-libbed, ad-libbing.
to act, speak, etc., without preparation:
Throughout the play he had to ad-lib constantly.
impromptu; extemporaneous:
ad-lib remarks to hecklers.
1915-20, Americanism; v. use of ad lib
Related forms
ad-libber, noun

ad lib. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for ad lib
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The general belief, in consequence, was that I had committed 'nameless' crimes in all directions, ad lib.

  • One day, however, De Beers astonished the Colonel by offering to manufacture shells, ad lib.

  • "I needed a job awful bad," I answered sullenly, knowing it sounded like an ad lib.

    The Old Die Rich Horace Leonard Gold
  • It consisted of a monologue delivered by the poisonous young woman to the macaw, occasionally varied by ad lib.

    The Book of Susan Lee Wilson Dodd
  • That doesn't mean that every individual is a bit of both, or either, ad lib.

  • He sang the foregoing twice over and then added a chorus, plainly improvised, made up of "Di doos" and "Di dums" ad lib.

    The Portygee Joseph Crosby Lincoln
British Dictionary definitions for ad lib


verb -libs, -libbing, -libbed
to improvise and deliver without preparation (a speech, musical performance, etc)
adjective (ad lib when predicative)
improvised; impromptu
without restraint; freely
(music) short for ad libitum
an improvised performance, often humorous
Derived Forms
ad-libber, noun
Word Origin
C18: short for Latin ad libitum, literally: according to pleasure
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for ad lib

1811, shortened from Latin ad libitum "at one's pleasure, as much as one likes" (c.1600), from libere "to please" (see libido). First recorded as one word 1919 (v.), 1925 (n.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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ad lib in Medicine

ad lib. abbr.
Latin ad libitum (freely, as desired)

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Slang definitions & phrases for ad lib

ad lib


: They danced ad lib until the conductor found his place again


: an ad-lib gag/ a quick ad-lib put-down

noun phrase

A passage or comment, etc, given spontaneously: He forgot his lines and did a stupid ad lib

verb phrase

To speak, play, dance, or otherwise perform a passage not in one's prescribed plan, often with an original and spontaneous effect: The Senator ad lib-bed for ten minutes waiting for the President to show

[fr Latin ad libitum, ''as one wishes'']

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Related Abbreviations for ad lib

ad lib

Latin ad libitum (at pleasure, speak without notes or script-that is, an unscripted comment)
The American Heritage® Abbreviations Dictionary, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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