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From Middle English fredom, freedom, from Old English frēodōm (freedom, state of free-will, charter, emancipation, deliverance), from Proto-West Germanic *frijadōm (freedom). Equivalent to free +‎ -dom. Cognate with North Frisian fridoem (freedom), Dutch vrijdom (freedom), Low German frīdom (freedom), Middle High German vrītuom (freedom), Norwegian fridom (freedom).



freedom (countable and uncountable, plural freedoms)

  1. (uncountable) The state of being free, of not being imprisoned or enslaved.
    Synonym: freehood
    Having recently been released from prison, he didn't know what to do with his newfound freedom.
  2. (countable) The lack of a specific constraint, or of constraints in general; a state of being free, unconstrained.
    Synonym: freeness
    • 1984, Dune[1] (Science Fiction), OCLC 1295459964, spoken by Princess Irulan, 1:50 from the start:
      The spice exists on only one planet in the entire universe- a desolate, dry planet with vast deserts. Hidden away within the rocks of these deserts are a people known as the Fremen, who have long held a prophecy, that a man would come, a messiah, who would lead them to true freedom. The planet is Arrakis, also known as Dune.
    • 2010, Bush, George W., Decision Points[2], →ISBN, OCLC 1089496474, OL 24416755M, page 23:
      China's experience reminded me of the French and Russian revolutions. The pattern was the same: People seized control by promising to promote certain ideals. Once they had consolidated power, they abused it, casting aside their beliefs and brutalizing their fellow citizens. It was as if mankind had a sickness that it kept inflicting on itself. The sobering thought deepened my conviction that freedom— economic, political, and religious — is the only fair and productive way of governing a society.
    • 2013 June 7, Gary Younge, “Hypocrisy lies at heart of Manning prosecution”, in The Guardian Weekly, volume 188, number 26, page 18:
      The dispatches […] also exposed the blatant discrepancy between the west's professed values and actual foreign policies. Having lectured the Arab world about democracy for years, its collusion in suppressing freedom was undeniable as protesters were met by weaponry and tear gas made in the west, employed by a military trained by westerners.
    Freedom of speech is a basic democratic value.
    People in our city enjoy many freedoms.
    Every child has a right to freedom from fear and freedom from want.
  3. The right or privilege of unrestricted use or access
    Freedom of a city
    • 1776 Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol I, ch 2—pt i:
      Yet the wisest princes, who adopted the maxims of Augustus, guarded with the strictest care the dignity of the Roman name, and diffused the freedom of the city with a prudent liberality.
    • 1854, History, Gazetteer, and Directory, of Norfolk, and the City and County of the City of Norwich ... (Sheffield, Francis White & Co.), p 77:
      The freedom of the city can now only be acquired by birth or servitude; but many were formerly admitted by gift and purchase, a fine of from £ 3 to £ 25, according to trade, being charged on the admission of strangers.
  4. Frankness; openness; unreservedness.
    • 1748, [Samuel Richardson], “Letter L”, in Clarissa. Or, The History of a Young Lady: [], volume (please specify |volume=I to VII), London: [] S[amuel] Richardson; [], OCLC 13631815:
      I doubt not, that you will take amiss my freedom; but as you have deserved it from me, I shall be less and less concerned on that score, as I see you are more and more intent to show your wit at the expense of justice and compassion.
  5. Improper familiarity; violation of the rules of decorum.
    • 1828, James Hogg, Mary Burnet
      "A first love is not easily extinguished, Mr. Allanson," said she. "You may guess from my appearance, that I have been fortunate in life; but, for all that, my first love for you has continued the same, unaltered and unchanged, and you must forgive the little freedoms I used to-day to try your affections, and the effects my appearance would have on you."

Usage notes[edit]

  • Freedom from can be followed by various nouns, typically, fear, want, hunger, pain, hatred, disease, stress, depression, debt, poverty, necessity, violence, war, advertising, addiction, etc.


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Derived terms[edit]


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  • freedom at OneLook Dictionary Search
  • freedom in Keywords for Today: A 21st Century Vocabulary, edited by The Keywords Project, Colin MacCabe, Holly Yanacek, 2018.
  • freedom in The Century Dictionary, New York, N.Y.: The Century Co., 1911