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1620s, from Latin emancipatus, past participle of emancipare "declare (someone) free, give up one's authority over," in Roman law, the freeing of a son or wife from the legal authority (patria potestas) of the pater familias, to make his or her own way in the world; from ex- "out, away" (see ex-) + mancipare "deliver, transfer or sell," from mancipum "ownership," from manus "hand" (see manual) + capere "take" (see capable). Related: Emancipated; emancipating. Adopted in the cause of religious toleration (17c.), then anti-slavery (1776). Also used in reference to women who free themselves from conventional customs (1850).