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  • I. The state or fact of being free from servitude, constraint, inhibition, etc.; (liberty-compare).
1. a. Exemption or release from slavery or imprisonment; personal liberty. letter of freedom (now hist.): a document emancipating a slave.
b. fig. Liberation from the bondage or dominating influence of sin, spiritual servitude, worldly ties, etc.
c. Exemption or release from the obligations of a contractual agreement; spec. release from a marriage, divorce.
2. Nobility or generosity of character, magnanimity. Cf. FREE adj. 3. Obs.
3. The state or fact of not being subject to despotic or autocratic control, or to a foreign power; civil liberty; independence.

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4. a. The state of being able to act without hindrance or restraint; liberty of action. Freq. with to and infinitive. academic freedom: see ACADEMIC adj. 2b.
b. spec. Liberty in respect of a particular sphere of life or action, as freedom of association, freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, freedom of the press (cf. press freedom n. at PRESS n.1 Compounds 1a(b)), etc.
c. As a count noun: a particular type of freedom (sense 4a), esp. when regarded as a right; a civil liberty. Usu. in pl. four freedoms: those propounded by Franklin D. Roosevelt (see quot. 19411).
5. The fact of not being controlled by or subject to fate; the power of self-determination attributed to the will. In philosophical and theological contexts sometimes contrasted with necessity; cf. NECESSITY n. 2.
6. Readiness or willingness to act; keenness, enthusiasm. Cf. FREE adj. 15. Obs. (Sc. in later use).
7. The state of being free from a defect, encumbrance, disadvantage, etc.
8. a. Frankness, openness, familiarity (in conversation or social interaction); outspokenness; (occas.) an instance of this.
b. The overstepping of due or customary bounds in speech or behavior; undue familiarity; an instance of this, a liberty (esp. in to take the freedom (to do something). Now rare.
9. Facility or ease in action or activity; absence of encumbrance or hindrance.
10. Boldness or vigour in conception or execution, esp. of a literary or other artistic work; the fact of not strictly observing conventions of style or form. Cf. FREE adj. 10b.
11. Sc. A piece of common land allotted by certain communities to freemen, or to other appropriately qualified members. Now hist. and rare.
12. degree of freedom.
a. Physics and Mech. Each of the independent modes or directions in which an object may undergo displacement, translation, or deformation.
b. Physical Chem. An independent capability of a system to vary without altering the number of phases and components present; each of the independently variable parameters which together determine the state of a system.
c. Statistics. A property of a statistical distribution or of a statistic, equal to the number of values that can be arbitrarily and independently assigned to the distribution, or the number of independent and unrestricted quantities contributing to the statistic.
  • II. Exemption, immunity, privilege.
13. a. Exemption from a service, obligation, charge, or duty; the state of being so exempted; an instance of this; an immunity, a privilege. Cf. FRANCHISE n. 2.
b. Immunity, exemption, or privilege possessed by a city, corporation, etc.; an instance of this.
c. A city or corporation possessing such immunity (obs.); the district over which the immunity extends; the liberties (see LIBERTY n.1 7c). Now rare.
14. a. The right of participating in the privileges attached to membership of a guild, company, etc.; (also) the liberty or right to practise a trade.
b. The right of participating in the privileges attached to citizenship of a town or city (in later use chiefly as an honour conferred upon an eminent or distinguished person).
c. A fee or fine paid to acquire the freedom of a company, or the right to practise a trade; = freedom fine n. at Compounds 3. Obs.
15. In extended use: unrestricted use of or access to something; the free run of a place.