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[lib-er-tee] /ˈlɪb ər ti/
noun, plural liberties.
freedom from arbitrary or despotic government or control.
freedom from external or foreign rule; independence.
freedom from control, interference, obligation, restriction, hampering conditions, etc.; power or right of doing, thinking, speaking, etc., according to choice.
freedom from captivity, confinement, or physical restraint:
The prisoner soon regained his liberty.
permission granted to a sailor, especially in the navy, to go ashore.
freedom or right to frequent or use a place:
The visitors were given the liberty of the city.
unwarranted or impertinent freedom in action or speech, or a form or instance of it:
to take liberties.
a female figure personifying freedom from despotism.
at liberty,
  1. free from captivity or restraint.
  2. unemployed; out of work.
  3. free to do or be as specified:
    You are at liberty to leave at any time during the meeting.
1325-75; Middle English liberte < Middle French < Latin lībertās, equivalent to līber free + -tās -ty2
4. liberation. See freedom. 6. franchise, permission, license, privilege, immunity. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for liberties
  • They are interested in going after the bad guys and they've done a good job of that without compromising civil liberties.
  • They fear that an overreliance on the military will have adverse consequences for privacy and civil liberties.
  • Fiction's current willingness to take wild liberties with the past may well come from a sense of its own cultural demotion.
  • Without these liberties, of course, the book would be far less readable.
  • For me, this civics lesson at the mailbox joined together privacy and civil liberties.
  • There are two sides to every argument and in this case it is civil liberties vs safety.
  • Scientists have taken liberties with the color palette and contrast in producing the images.
  • After all, eye-witness accounts are often found to be inaccurate in criminal trials when people's lives or liberties are at stake.
  • Not to be conflated with libertarians, who want a government focused on liberties.
  • Enough of our liberties have been trampled on already.
British Dictionary definitions for liberties


noun (pl) -ties
the power of choosing, thinking, and acting for oneself; freedom from control or restriction
the right or privilege of access to a particular place; freedom
(often pl) a social action regarded as being familiar, forward, or improper
(often pl) an action that is unauthorized or unwarranted in the circumstances: he took liberties with the translation
  1. authorized leave granted to a sailor
  2. (as modifier): liberty man, liberty boat
at liberty, free, unoccupied, or unrestricted
take liberties, to be overfamiliar or overpresumptuous (with)
take the liberty, to venture or presume (to do something)
Word Origin
C14: from Old French liberté, from Latin lībertās, from līber free
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 liberties



late 14c., "free choice, freedom to do as one chooses," from Old French liberté "freedom, liberty, free will" (14c.), from Latin libertatem (nominative libertas) "freedom, condition of a free man; absence of restraint; permission," from liber "free" (see liberal)

The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure it is right. [Learned Hand, 1944]
Nautical sense of "leave of absence" is from 1758. To take liberties "go beyond the bounds of propriety" is from 1620s. Sense of "privileges by grant" (14c.) led to sense of "a person's private land" (mid-15c.), which yielded sense in 18c. England and America of "a district within a county but having its own justice of the peace," and also "a district adjacent to a city and in some degree under its municipal jurisdiction" (e.g. Northern Liberties of Philadelphia). Also cf. Old French libertés "local rights, laws, taxes."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for liberties


Related Terms

at liberty

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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Idioms and Phrases with liberties
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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