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From Middle English fre, from Old English frēo, Proto-Germanic *frijaz, from Proto-Indo-European *prei- (to be fond of), *prey-. Compare West Frisian frij, Dutch vrij, German frei, Danish fri.

The verb comes from Old English frēoġan.


  • IPA(key): /fɹiː/
  • (file)
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -iː
    A sign advertising free beer (obtainable without payment).
A "buy one get one free" sign at a flower stand (obtainable without additional payment).
This food product is labelled "fat free", meaning it contains no fat.


free (comparative freer, superlative freest)

  1. Not imprisoned or enslaved.
    a free man
  2. Obtainable without any payment.
    The government provides free health care.
    • 2013 July 20, “The attack of the MOOCs”, The Economist, volume 408, number 8845: 
      Since the launch early last year of […] two Silicon Valley start-ups offering free education through MOOCs, massive open online courses, the ivory towers of academia have been shaken to their foundations. University brands built in some cases over centuries have been forced to contemplate the possibility that information technology will rapidly make their existing business model obsolete.
  3. (by extension, chiefly advertising slang) Obtainable without additional payment, as a bonus given when paying for something else.
    Buy a TV to get a free DVD player!
  4. Unconstrained.
    He was given free rein to do whatever he wanted.
    • 2013 August 10, Schumpeter, “Cronies and capitols”, The Economist, volume 408, number 8848: 
      Policing the relationship between government and business in a free society is difficult. Businesspeople have every right to lobby governments, and civil servants to take jobs in the private sector.
  5. Unconstrained by timidity or distrust; unreserved; frank; communicative.
    • Milward
      He was free only with a few.
  6. Generous; liberal.
    He's very free with his money.
  7. (obsolete) Clear of offence or crime; guiltless; innocent.
    • Dryden
      My hands are guilty, but my heart is free.
  8. (mathematics) Unconstrained by relators.
    the free group on three generators
  9. (mathematics, logic) Unconstrained by quantifiers.
    z is the free variable in "\forall x\exists y:xy=z".
  10. Unobstructed, without blockages.
    the drain was free
  11. Unattached or uncombined.
    a free radical
  12. Not currently in use; not taken; unoccupied.
    You can sit on this chair; it's free.
  13. Without obligations.
    free time
  14. (software) With no or only freedom-preserving limitations on distribution or modification.
    OpenOffice is free software.
  15. Without; not containing (what is specified); exempt; clear; liberated.
    We had a wholesome, filling meal, free of meat.   I would like to live free from care in the mountains.
    • Bishop Burnet
      princes declaring themselves free from the obligations of their treaties
    • 1898, Winston Churchill, chapter 4, The Celebrity:
      One morning I had been driven to the precarious refuge afforded by the steps of the inn, after rejecting offers from the Celebrity to join him in a variety of amusements. But even here I was not free from interruption, for he was seated on a horse-block below me, playing with a fox terrier.
  16. (programming) Of identifiers, not bound.
  17. (botany, mycology) Not attached; loose.
    • 1992, Rudolf M. Schuster, The Hepaticae and Anthocerotae of North America: East of the Hundredth Meridian, volume V, page 7
      Furthermore, the free anterior margin of the lobule is arched toward the lobe and is often involute []
    In this group of mushrooms, the gills are free.
  18. (of a morpheme) That can be used by itself, unattached to another morpheme.
  19. (software) Intended for release, as opposed to a checked version.
  20. (dated) Ready; eager; acting without spurring or whipping; spirited.
    a free horse
  21. (dated) Invested with a particular freedom or franchise; enjoying certain immunities or privileges; admitted to special rights; followed by of.
    • Dryden
      He therefore makes all birds, of every sect, / Free of his farm.
  22. Thrown open, or made accessible, to all; to be enjoyed without limitations; unrestricted; not obstructed, engrossed, or appropriated; open; said of a thing to be possessed or enjoyed.
    a free school
    • Shakespeare
      Why, sir, I pray, are not the streets as free / For me as for you?
  23. Not arbitrary or despotic; assuring liberty; defending individual rights against encroachment by any person or class; instituted by a free people; said of a government, institutions, etc.
    This is a free country.
  24. (UK, law, obsolete) Certain or honourable; the opposite of base.
    free service; free socage
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Burrill to this entry?)
  25. (law) Privileged or individual; the opposite of common.
    a free fishery; a free warren
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Burrill to this entry?)



Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Help:How to check translations.


free (comparative more free, superlative most free)

  1. Without needing to pay.
    I got this bike free.
  2. (obsolete) Freely; willingly.
    • Shakespeare
      I as free forgive you / As I would be forgiven.



A painting depicting mythical Greek hero Perseus freeing Andromeda, who was imprisoned by a sea monster.


free (third-person singular simple present frees, present participle freeing, simple past and past participle freed)

  1. (transitive) To make free; set at liberty; release; rid of that which confines, limits, embarrasses, or oppresses.




free (plural frees)

  1. (Australian rules football, Gaelic football) Abbreviation of free kick.
    • 2006, [1]:
      Whether deserved or not, the free gave Cresswell the chance to cover himself in glory with a shot on goal after the siren.
  2. free transfer
    • 2011 September 21, Sam Lyon, “Man City 2 - 0 Birmingham”, BBC Sport:
      Hargreaves, who left Manchester United on a free during the summer, drilled a 22-yard beauty to open the scoring.
  3. (hurling) The usual means of restarting play after a foul is committed, where the non-offending team restarts from where the foul was committed.


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Help:How to check translations.

Usage notes[edit]

  • Rank among most common English words: #351 (Gutenburg)