verb (used with object), re·leased, re·leas·ing.

  1. to free from confinement, bondage, obligation, pain, etc.; let go: to release a prisoner; to release someone from a debt.
  2. to free from anything that restrains, fastens, etc.: to release a catapult.
  3. to allow to be known, issued, done, or exhibited: to release an article for publication.
  4. Law. to give up, relinquish, or surrender (a right, claim, etc.).


  1. a freeing or releasing from confinement, obligation, pain, emotional strain, etc.
  2. liberation from anything that restrains or fastens.
  3. some device or agency for effecting such liberation.
  4. a grant of permission, as to publish, use, or sell something.
  5. the releasing of something for publication, performance, use, exhibition, or sale.
  6. the film, book, record, etc., that is released.
  7. press release.
  8. Law.
    1. the surrender of a right or the like to another.
    2. a document embodying such a surrender.
  9. Law Obsolete. a remission, as of a debt, tax, or tribute.
  10. Machinery.
    1. a control mechanism for starting or stopping a machine, especially by removing some restrictive apparatus.
    2. the opening of an exhaust port or valve at or near the working stroke of an engine so that the working fluid can be exhausted on the return stroke.
    3. the point in the stroke of an engine at which the exhaust port or valve is opened.
  11. (in jazz or popular music) a bridge.

verb (tr)

  1. to free (a person, animal, etc) from captivity or imprisonment
  2. to free (someone) from obligation or duty
  3. to free (something) from (one’s grip); let go or fall
  4. to issue (a record, film, book, etc) for sale or circulation
  5. to make (news or information) known or allow (news or information) to be made knownto release details of an agreement
  6. law to relinquish (a right, claim, title, etc) in favour of someone else
  7. ethology to evoke (a response) through the presentation of a stimulus that produces the response innately


  1. the act of freeing or state of being freed, as from captivity, imprisonment, duty, pain, life, etc
  2. the act of issuing for sale or publication
  3. something issued for sale or public showing, esp a film or a recorda new release from Bob Dylan
  4. a news item, document, etc, made available for publication, broadcasting, etc
  5. law the surrender of a claim, right, title, etc, in favour of someone else
  6. a control mechanism for starting or stopping an engine
    1. the opening of the exhaust valve of a steam engine near the end of the piston stroke
    2. the moment at which this valve opens
  7. the electronic control regulating how long a note sounds after a synthesizer key has been released
  8. the control mechanism for the shutter in a camera

c.1300, “to withdraw, revoke (a decree, etc.), cancel, lift; remit,” from Old French relaissier, relesser “to relinquish, quit, let go, leave behind, abandon, acquit,” variant of relacher “release, relax,” from Latin relaxare “loosen, stretch out” (see relax). Cf. Spanish relajar, Italian relassare.

Meaning “alleviate, ease” is mid-14c., as is sense of “free from (duty, etc.); exonerate.” From late 14c. as “grant remission, forgive; set free from imprisonment, military service, etc.” Also “give up, relinquish, surrender.” In law, c.1400, “to grant a release of property.” Of press reports, attested from 1904; of motion pictures, from 1912; of music recordings, from 1962. As a euphemism for “to dismiss, fire from a job” it is attested in American English since 1904. Related: Released; releasing.


early 14c., “abatement of distress; means of deliverance,” from Old French relais, reles (12c.), a back-formation from relesser, relaissier (see release (v.)). In law, mid-14c., “transferring of property or a right to another;” late 14c. as “release from an obligation; remission of a duty, tribute, etc.” Meaning “act and manner of releasing” (a bow, etc.) is from 1871. Sense of “action of publication” is from 1907.

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