At liberty

freedom from arbitrary or despotic government or control.
freedom from external or foreign rule; independence.
freedom from control, interference, obligation, restriction, hampering conditions, etc.; power or right of doing, thinking, speaking, etc., according to choice.
freedom from captivity, confinement, or physical restraint:
The prisoner soon regained his liberty.
permission granted to a sailor, especially in the navy, to go ashore.
freedom or right to frequent or use a place:
The visitors were given the liberty of the city.
unwarranted or impertinent freedom in action or speech, or a form or instance of it:
to take liberties.
a female figure personifying freedom from despotism.
at liberty,

free from captivity or restraint.
unemployed; out of work.
free to do or be as specified:
You are at liberty to leave at any time during the meeting.

noun (pl) -ties
the power of choosing, thinking, and acting for oneself; freedom from control or restriction
the right or privilege of access to a particular place; freedom
(often pl) a social action regarded as being familiar, forward, or improper
(often pl) an action that is unauthorized or unwarranted in the circumstances: he took liberties with the translation

authorized leave granted to a sailor
(as modifier): liberty man, liberty boat

at liberty, free, unoccupied, or unrestricted
take liberties, to be overfamiliar or overpresumptuous (with)
take the liberty, to venture or presume (to do something)

late 14c., “free choice, freedom to do as one chooses,” from Old French liberté “freedom, liberty, free will” (14c.), from Latin libertatem (nominative libertas) “freedom, condition of a free man; absence of restraint; permission,” from liber “free” (see liberal)

The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure it is right. [Learned Hand, 1944]

Nautical sense of “leave of absence” is from 1758. To take liberties “go beyond the bounds of propriety” is from 1620s. Sense of “privileges by grant” (14c.) led to sense of “a person’s private land” (mid-15c.), which yielded sense in 18c. England and America of “a district within a county but having its own justice of the peace,” and also “a district adjacent to a city and in some degree under its municipal jurisdiction” (e.g. Northern Liberties of Philadelphia). Also cf. Old French libertés “local rights, laws, taxes.”

adverb phrase


Related Terms

at liberty
Free, not obligated; also, not occupied. For example, I am not at liberty to tell you the whole story, or “I … washed when there was a basin at liberty” (Charlotte Bront&edie;, Jane Eyre, 1847). This idiom is often used in a negative context, as in the first example. [ First half of 1800s ]

at liberty
take the liberty of


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