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Alternative forms[edit]

  • (British, Canadian, Australian, Irish, South African and New Zealand English) licence (noun)


From Middle English licence, licens, lisence, lissens, licance (noun) and licencen, licensen, lisensen, licent (verb), from Old French licence, from Latin licentia (license), from licens, present participle of licere (to be allowed, be allowable); compare linquere, Ancient Greek λείπω (leípō, leave).


  • IPA(key): /ˈlaɪsəns/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -aɪsəns
  • Hyphenation: li‧cense
English Wikipedia has an article on:


license (countable and uncountable, plural licenses) (American spelling)

  1. A legal document giving official permission to do something; a permit.
    • 1970, 0:1:15 from the start, in Monty Python's Flying Circus, season 2, episode 10, John Cleese (actor):
      Hello. I would like to buy a fish licence please.
  2. The legal terms under which a person is allowed to use a product, especially software.
    • 1986, Thomas Smedinghoff, The Legal Guide to Developing, Protecting, and Marketing Software[1], page 166:
      Thus, while the license will grant the user the right to use the software, a major concern is the scope of that use. For example, will the user be granted the right to copy, modify, or transfer the software?
  3. Freedom to deviate deliberately from normally applicable rules or practices (especially in behaviour or speech).
    • 2012, Chris Seepe, The Conspiracy to Assassinate Jesus Christ[2], page 5:
      In some instances, the author took license to include events which never happened, or to purposely create events which may run in the face of popular conjecture if the author felt it would help the story along.
  4. Excessive freedom; lack of due restraint.
  5. Short for driver's license.
    In order to enter the building, I need to show my license.

Usage notes[edit]

  • In British English, Canadian English, Australian English, Irish English, South African English and New Zealand English the noun is spelt licence and the verb is license.
  • The spelling licence is not used for either part of speech in the United States.

Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]


  • Gulf Arabic: ⁧ليسن(lēsin)



license (third-person singular simple present licenses, present participle licensing, simple past and past participle licensed)

  1. To authorize officially.
    I am licensed to practice law in this state.
  2. (transitive) (applied to a piece of intellectual property)
    1. To give formal authorization to use.
      It was decided to license Wikipedia under the GFDL.
      • 2013 June 22, “T time”, in The Economist, volume 407, number 8841, page 68:
        The ability to shift profits to low-tax countries by locating intellectual property in them, which is then licensed to related businesses in high-tax countries, is often assumed to be the preserve of high-tech companies.
    2. To acquire authorization to use, usually in exchange for compensation.
      The filmmakers licensed several iconic 80's songs for the soundtrack.
      • 2000, International Journal of Micrographics & Optical Technology[3]:
        As part of the strategic relationship, Microsoft has licensed the image segmentation, compression and viewing technology from ScanSoft.
      • 2007, Steve Swayne, How Sondheim Found His Sound[4]:
        They changed their campaign, licensed the song and used it for over six years in all of their advertising.
  3. (transitive) To give permission or freedom to; accept.
    • 1855 December – 1857 June, Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit, London: Bradbury and Evans, [], published 1857, →OCLC:
      Intruders there were in Harley Street, of whom it was not aware; but Mr and Mrs Merdle it delighted to honour. Society was aware of Mr and Mrs Merdle. Society had said ‘Let us license them; let us know them.’
  4. (linguistics, transitive) To permit (as grammatically correct).
    No English adverbs have mandatory complements, and most don't even license optional ones.
    • 2014, Hagit Borer, Parametric Syntax: Case Studies in Semitic and Romance Languages[5]:
      Kayne argues that the crucial fact which licenses preposition stranding in English but not in French is the fact that in English verbs and prepositions assign Case similarly, and hence they govern similarly.

Derived terms[edit]


Further reading[edit]