adjective, fre·er, fre·est.
- enjoying personal rights or liberty, as a person who is not in slavery: a land of free people.
- pertaining to or reserved for those who enjoy personal liberty: They were thankful to be living on free soil.
- existing under, characterized by, or possessing civil and political liberties that are, as a rule, constitutionally guaranteed by representative government: the free nations of the world.
- enjoying political autonomy, as a people or country not under foreign rule; independent.
- exempt from external authority, interference, restriction, etc., as a person or one’s will, thought, choice, action, etc.; independent; unrestricted.
- able to do something at will; at liberty: free to choose.
- clear of obstructions or obstacles, as a road or corridor: The highway is now free of fallen rock.
- not occupied or in use: I’ll try to phone her again if the line is free.
- exempt or released from something specified that controls, restrains, burdens, etc. (usually followed by from or of): free from worry; free of taxes.See also -free.
- having immunity or being safe (usually followed by from): free from danger.
- provided without, or not subject to, a charge or payment: free parking; a free sample.
- given without consideration of a return or reward: a free offer of legal advice.
- unimpeded, as motion or movement; easy, firm, or swift.
- not held fast; loose; unattached: to get one’s arm free.
- not joined to or in contact with something else: The free end of the cantilever sagged.
- acting without self-restraint or reserve: to be too free with one’s tongue.
- ready or generous in giving; liberal; lavish: to be free with one’s advice.
- given readily or in profusion; unstinted.
- frank and open; unconstrained, unceremonious, or familiar.
- unrestrained by decency; loose or licentious: free behavior.
- not subject to special regulations, restrictions, duties, etc.: The ship was given free passage.
- of, relating to, or characterized by free enterprise: a free economy.
- that may be used by or is open to all: a free market.
- engaged in by all present; general: a free fight.
- not literal, as a translation, adaptation, or the like; loose.
- uncombined chemically: free oxygen.
- traveling without power; under no force except that of gravity or inertia: free flight.
- Phonetics. (of a vowel) situated in an open syllable (opposed to checked).
- at liberty to enter and enjoy at will (usually followed by of): to be free of a friend’s house.
- not subject to rules, set forms, etc.: The young students had an hour of free play between classes.
- easily worked, as stone, land, etc.
- Mathematics. (of a vector) having specified magnitude and direction but no specified initial point.Compare bound1(def 9).
- Also large. Nautical. (of a wind) nearly on the quarter, so that a sailing vessel may sail free.
- not containing a specified substance (usually followed by of or from): Our deli meats are free of additives.See also -free.
- (of a linguistic form) occurring as an independent construction, without necessary combination with other forms, as most words.Compare bound1(def 11).
- without cost, payment, or charge.
- in a free manner; freely.
- Nautical. away from the wind, so that a sailing vessel need not be close-hauled: running free.
verb (used with object), freed, free·ing.
- to make free; set at liberty; release from bondage, imprisonment, or restraint.
- to exempt or deliver (usually followed by from).
- to relieve or rid (usually followed by of): to free oneself of responsibility.
- to disengage; clear (usually followed by from or of).
- free up,
- to release, as from restrictions: Congress voted to free up funds for the new highway system.
- to disentangle: It took an hour to free up the traffic jam.
- for free, Informal. without charge: The tailor mended my jacket for free.
- free and clear, Law. without any encumbrance, as a lien or mortgage: They owned their house free and clear.
- free and easy,
- unrestrained; casual; informal.
- excessively or inappropriately casual; presumptuous.
- make free with,
- to use as one’s own; help oneself to: If you make free with their liquor, you won’t be invited again.
- to treat with too much familiarity; take liberties with.
- set free, to release; liberate; free: The prisoners were set free.
- with a free hand, generously; freely; openhandedly: He entertains visitors with a free hand.
adjective freer or freest
- able to act at will; not under compulsion or restraint
- having personal rights or liberty; not enslaved or confined
- (as noun)land of the free
- (often postpositive and foll by from) not subject (to) or restricted (by some regulation, constraint, etc); exempta free market; free from pain
- (of a country, etc) autonomous or independent
- exempt from external direction or restriction; not forced or inducedfree will
- not subject to conventional constraintsfree verse
- (of jazz) totally improvised, with no preset melodic, harmonic, or rhythmic basis
- not exact or literala free translation
- costing nothing; provided without chargefree entertainment
- law (of property)
- not subject to payment of rent or performance of services; freehold
- not subject to any burden or charge, such as a mortgage or lien; unencumbered
- (postpositive; often foll by of or with) ready or generous in using or giving; liberal; lavishfree with advice
- unrestrained by propriety or good manners; licentious
- not occupied or in use; availablea free cubicle
- not occupied or busy; without previous engagementsI’m not free until Wednesday
- open or available to all; public
- without charge to the subscriber or userfreepost; freephone
- not fixed or joined; loosethe free end of a chain
- without obstruction or impedimentfree passage
- chem chemically uncombinedfree nitrogen
- phonetics denoting a vowel that can occur in an open syllable, such as the vowel in see as opposed to the vowel in cat
- grammar denoting a morpheme that can occur as a separate wordCompare bound 1 (def. 8a)
- logic denoting an occurrence of a variable not bound by a quantifierCompare bound 1 (def. 9)
- (of some materials, such as certain kinds of stone) easily worked
- nautical (of the wind) blowing from the quarter
- feel free (usually imperative) to regard oneself as having permission to perform a specified action
- for free not standard without charge or cost
- free and easy casual or tolerant; easy-going
- make free with to take liberties with; behave too familiarly towards
- in a free manner; freely
- without charge or cost
- nautical with the wind blowing from the quartera yacht sailing free
verb frees, freeing or freed (tr)
- (sometimes foll by up) to set at liberty; release
- to remove obstructions, attachments, or impediments from; disengage
- (often foll by of or from) to relieve or rid (of obstacles, pain, etc)
- informal a freesheet
Old English freo “free, exempt from, not in bondage,” also “noble; joyful,” from Proto-Germanic *frijaz (cf. Old Frisian fri, Old Saxon and Old High German vri, German frei, Dutch vrij, Gothic freis “free”), from PIE *prijos “dear, beloved,” from root *pri- “to love” (cf. Sanskrit priyah “own, dear, beloved,” priyate “loves;” Old Church Slavonic prijati “to help,” prijatelji “friend;” Welsh rhydd “free”).
The primary sense seems to have been “beloved, friend, to love;” which in some languages (notably Germanic and Celtic) developed also a sense of “free,” perhaps from the terms “beloved” or “friend” being applied to the free members of one’s clan (as opposed to slaves, cf. Latin liberi, meaning both “free” and “children”).
Cf. Gothic frijon “to love;” Old English freod “affection, friendship,” friga “love,” friðu “peace;” Old Norse friðr, German Friede “peace;” Old English freo “wife;” Old Norse Frigg “wife of Odin,” literally “beloved” or “loving;” Middle Low German vrien “to take to wife, Dutch vrijen, German freien “to woo.”
Of nations, “not subject to foreign rule or to despotism,” it is recorded from late 14c. (Free world “non-communist nations” attested from 1950.) Sense of “given without cost” is 1580s, from notion of “free of cost.” Free lunch, originally offered in bars to draw in business, by 1850, American English. Free pass on railways, etc., attested by 1850. Free speech in Britain used of a privilege in Parliament since the time of Henry VIII. In U.S., as a civil right, it became a prominent phrase in the debates over the Gag Rule (1836).
Free enterprise recorded from 1890; free trade is from 1823. Free will is from early 13c. Free association in psychology is from 1899. Free love “sexual liberation” attested from 1822. Free range (adj.) is attested by 1960. Free and easy “unrestrained” is from 1690s.
Old English freogan “to free, liberate, manumit,” also “to love, think of lovingly, honor,” from freo (see free (adj.)). Cf. Old Frisian fria “to make free;” Old Saxon friohan “to court, woo;” German befreien “to free,” freien “to woo;” Old Norse frja “to love;” Gothic frijon “to love.” Related: Freed; freeing.
Without charge, gratis, as in You can’t expect the doctor to treat you for free. [Colloquial; c. 1900]
In addition to the idioms beginning with free
- free agent
- free and clear
- free and easy
- free as a bird
- free enterprise
- free fall
- free hand
- free lunch
- free rein
- breathe easy (freely)
- feel free
- footloose and fancy-free
- for free
- get off (scot-free)
- home free
- make free with
- of one’s own accord (free will)