- liberal (adj.)
- mid-14c., "generous," also "nobly born, noble, free;" from late 14c. as "selfless, magnanimous, admirable;" from early 15c. in a bad sense, "extravagant, unrestrained," from Old French liberal "befitting free people; noble, generous; willing, zealous" (12c.), and directly from Latin liberalis "noble, gracious, munificent, generous," literally "of freedom, pertaining to or befitting a free person," from liber "free, unrestricted, unimpeded; unbridled, unchecked, licentious."
This is conjectured to be from PIE *leudh-ero-, which probably originally meant "belonging to the people," though the precise semantic development is obscure; but compare frank (adj.). This was a suffixed form of the base *leudh- (2) "people" (source also of Old Church Slavonic ljudu, Lithuanian liaudis, Old English leod, German Leute "nation, people;" Old High German liut "person, people").
Who hath indeed, most like a liberal villain,
Liberal was used 16c.-17c. as a term of reproach with the meaning "free from restraint in speech or action." The Enlightenment revived it in a positive sense "free from prejudice, tolerant, not bigoted or narrow," which emerged 1776-88. In 19c. often theological rather than political, opposed to orthodox, used of Unitarians, Universalists, etc. For educational use, see see liberal arts.
Confess'd the vile encounters they have had
A thousand times in secret.
["Much Ado," IV.1.93]
Purely in reference to political opinion, "tending in favor of freedom and democracy," it dates from c. 1801, from French libéral. In English the label at first was applied by opponents (often in the French form and with suggestions of foreign lawlessness) to the party more favorable to individual political freedoms. But also (especially in U.S. politics) tending to mean "favorable to government action to effect social change," which seems at times to draw more from the religious sense of "free from prejudice in favor of traditional opinions and established institutions" (and thus open to new ideas and plans of reform), which dates from 1823.
This is the attitude of mind which has come to be known as liberal. It implies vigorous convictions, tolerance for the opinions of others, and a persistent desire for sound progress. It is a method of approach which has played a notable and constructive part in our history, and which merits a thorough trial today in the attack on our absorbingly interesting American task. [Guy Emerson, "The New Frontier," 1920]
- liberal arts (n.)
- late 14c., translating Latin artes liberales; the name for the seven attainments directed to intellectual enlargement, rather than immediate practical purpose, and thus deemed worthy of a free man (liberal in this sense is opposed to servile or mechanical). They were divided into the trivium -- grammar, logic, rhetoric (see trivial) -- and the quadrivium -- arithmetic, geometry, music, astronomy. Explained by Fowler (1926) as "the education designed for a gentleman (Latin liber a free man) & ... opposed on the one hand to technical or professional or any special training, & on the other to education that stops short before manhood is reached."
The study of [the classics] is fitly called a liberal education, because it emancipates the mind from every narrow provincialism, whether of egoism or tradition, and is the apprenticeship that every one must serve before becoming a free brother of the guild which passes the torch of life from age to age. [James Russell Lowell, "Among my Books"]
- liberalisation (n.)
- chiefly British English spelling of liberalization; for spelling, see -ize.
- liberalism (n.)
- "liberal principles," especially the political principles of a liberal party, 1819, from liberal (adj.) in the political sense + -ism.
- liberality (n.)
- mid-14c., "generosity," from Old French liberalité "generosity, liberality" (13c.), from Latin liberalitatem (nominative liberalitas) "way of thinking or acting befitting a free man, frankness, affability," noun of quality from liberalis "noble, gracious; free" (see liberal (adj.)).
- liberalization (n.)
- 1794, noun of action from liberalize.
- liberalize (v.)
- also liberalise, "to render (more) liberal," 1774, from liberal (adj.) + -ize. Related: Liberalized; liberalizing.
- liberally (adv.)
- late 14c., "generously, munificently," from liberal (adj.) + -ly (2). Meaning "freely" is c. 1500.
- liberate (v.)
- "set free, release from restraint or bondage," 1620s, from Latin liberatus, past participle of liberare "to set free" (source also of Spanish librar, French livrer), from liber "free, not a slave, unrestricted" (see liberal (adj.)). Meaning "to free an occupied territory from the enemy" (often used ironically) is from 1942; hence the World War II slang sense "to loot." Related: Liberated; liberating.
- liberation (n.)
- "act of setting free from restraint or confinement," early 15c., from Middle French libération and directly from Latin liberationem (nominative liberatio) "a setting or becoming free," noun of action from past participle stem of liberare "to set free," from liber "free" (see liberal (adj.)).
Liberation theology (1969) translates Spanish teologia de la liberación, coined 1968 by Peruvian priest Gustavo Gutiérrez (b. 1928). In late 19c. British history, liberationism, liberationist are in reference to the movement to disestablish the Church, from the Liberation Society, devoted to the freeing of religion from state patronage and control.
- liberator (n.)
- 1640s, from Latin liberator "one who sets free, a deliverer" (source also of French libérateur, Spanish liberador, Italian liberatore), agent noun from past participle stem of liberare "to set free" (see liberate).
- African nation, begun as a resettlement project of freed American slaves in 1822 by the American Colonization Society (founded for that purpose in 1816), launched as a free republic in 1847; the name was chosen by society member and U.S. senator Robert Goodloe Harper (1765-1825) from Latin liber "free" (see liberal (adj.)) + -ia. Related: Liberian, but this also can mean "pertaining to Pope Liberius" (352-66).
- libertarian (n.)
- 1789, "one who holds the doctrine of free will" (especially in extreme forms; opposed to necessitarian), from liberty (q.v.) on model of unitarian, etc. Political sense of "person advocating the greatest possible liberty in thought and conduct" is from 1878. As an adjective by 1882. U.S. Libertarian Party founded in Colorado, 1971. Related: Libertarianism (1849 in religion, 1901 in politics).
- liberticide (n.)
- 1793, "a destroyer of liberty," from liberty + -cide. Earlier in French. From 1819 as "the destruction of liberty."
- libertine (n.)
- late 14c., "a freedman, an emancipated slave," from Latin libertinus "condition of a freedman; member of a class of freedmen," from libertus "one's freedmen, emancipated person," from liber "free" (see liberal (adj.)).
Sense of "freethinker" is first recorded 1560s, from French libertin (1540s) originally the name given to certain pantheistic Protestant sects in France and the Low Countries. This sense partakes more of liberty and liberal than of the classical meaning (in Old French, libertin meant "Saracen slave converted to Christianity"). Meaning "dissolute or licentious person, man given to indulgence of lust" is first recorded 1590s; the darkening of meaning being perhaps due to misunderstanding of Latin libertinus in Acts vi:9. For "condition of being a libertine" 17c English tried libertinage; libertinism (from French libertinisme).
- libertine (adj.)
- 1570s, "free, unrestrained," originally in religion, from libertine (adj.). Meaning "licentious, dissolute" is from c. 1600.
- liberty (n.)
- late 14c., "free choice, freedom to do as one chooses," also "freedom from the bondage of sin," from Old French liberte "freedom, liberty, free will" (14c., Modern French liberté), from Latin libertatem (nominative libertas) "civil or political freedom, condition of a free man; absence of restraint; permission," from liber "free" (see liberal (adj.)). At first of persons; of communities, "state of being free from arbitrary, despotic, or autocratic rule or control" is from late 15c.
The French notion of liberty is political equality; the English notion is personal independence. [William R. Greg, "France in January 1852" in "Miscellaneous Essays"]
Nautical sense of "leave of absence" is from 1758. Meaning "unrestrained action, conduct, or expression" (1550s) led to take liberties "go beyond the bounds of propriety" (1620s). Sense of "privileges by grant" (14c.) led to sense of "a person's private land" (mid-15c.), within which certain special privileges may be exercised, which yielded in 18c. in both England and America a sense 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" (as in Northern Liberties of Philadelphia). Also compare Old French libertés "local rights, laws, taxes."
Liberty-cap is from 1803; the American Revolutionary liberty-pole, "tall flagstaff set up in honor of liberty and often surmounted by a liberty-cap" is from 1775. Liberty-cabbage was a World War I U.S. jingoistic euphemism for sauerkraut.
- libidinal (adj.)
- in psychology jargon, 1922, in Joan Riviere's translation of Freud, from comb. form of libido (Latin genitive libidinis) + -al (1).
- libidinous (adj.)
- "lustful," mid-15c., from Old French libidineus "sinful, lusty" (13c., Modern French libidineux) or directly from Latin libidinosus "full of desire, lustful," from libido "pleasure, desire, sensual passion, lust" (see libido). Related: Libidinously; libidinousness; libidinosity. These are older in English than libido, libidinal, which are from modern psychology.
- libido (n.)
- "psychic drive or energy, usually associated with sexual instinct," 1892, carried over untranslated in English edition of Krafft-Ebing's "Psychopathia Sexualis"; and used in 1909 in A.A. Brill's translation of Freud's "Selected Papers on Hysteria" (Freud's use of the term led to its popularity); from Latin libido, lubido "desire, eagerness, longing; inordinate desire, sensual passion, lust," from libere "to be pleasing, to please," ultimately cognate with Old English lufu (see love (n.)).
- Libra (n.)
- zodiac constellation represented by a pair of scales, late Old English, from Latin libra "a balance, pair of scales," also "pound (unit of weight)," from Proto-Italic *leithra- "pound." De Vaan compares Greek litra "name of a Sicilian coin," which "was probably borrowed from an Italic language at the stage containing [-thr-]."
Not a separate constellation in ancient Greece, where it was khelae, "the claws" of adjacent Skorpios. Nativized in Old Norse as skala-merki. Meaning "person born under the sign of Libra" is from 1894. Related: Libral; Libran.
- librarian (n.)
- "custodian of a library," 1713; see library + -an. Earlier form was library-keeper (1640s), and librarian had been used in the sense "scribe, one who copies books" (1660s).
- library (n.)
- place for books, late 14c., from Anglo-French librarie, Old French librairie, librarie "collection of books; bookseller's shop" (14c.), from Latin librarium "book-case, chest for books," and libraria "a bookseller's shop," in Medieval Latin "a library," noun uses of the neuter and fem., respectively, of librarius "concerning books," from Latin librarium "chest for books," from liber (genitive libri) "book, paper, parchment."
Latin liber (from Proto-Italic *lufro-) was originally "the inner bark of trees," and perhaps is from PIE *lubh-ro- "leaf, rind," a derivative of the PIE root *leub(h)- "to strip, to peel" (see leaf (n.)). Comparing Albanian labë "rind, cork;" Lithuanian luobas "bast," Latvian luobas "peel," Russian lub "bast," de Vaan writes that, "for want of a better alternative, we may surmise that liber is cognate with *lubh- and goes back to a PIE word or a European word 'leaf, rind.'"
The equivalent word in most Romance languages survives only in the sense "bookseller's shop" (French libraire, Italian libraria). Old English had bochord, literally "book hoard." As an adjective, Blount (1656) has librarious.
- libre (adj.)
- "free," a French word used in various combinations in English since 16c., from French libre, from Latin liber "free" (see liberal (adj.)).
- libretto (n.)
- plural libretti, "book containing the words of an extended musical composition," also the words themselves, 1742, from Italian libretto, diminutive of libro "book," from Latin liber (genitive libri) "book" (see library). Related: Librettist (1849).
- libricide (n.)
- "the killing of books," 1851, from Latin liber (genitive libri) "book" (see library) + -cide.
- ancient name for the northern part of Africa west of Egypt, attested in heiroglyphics from 2000 B.C.E., of unknown origin. In Greek use, sometimes meaning all of Africa. The modern nation acquired the name in 1934, when Italy, which then held it as a colony, revived the name as that of the colony, which became formally independent in 1951. Related: Libyan (adj. and n., both c. 1600), earlier as an adjective Lybic (1540s); as a noun, for the inhabitants and the country, Middle English had Libie. Comb. form Libyo-.
- licence (n.)
- late 14c., "formal authorization, official permission, permit, privilege," from Old French licence "freedom, liberty, power, possibility; permission," (12c.), from Latin licentia "freedom, liberty; unrestrained liberty, wantonness, presumption," from licentem (nominative licens), present participle of licere "to be allowed, be lawful," from PIE root *leik- "to offer, bargain, make a bid" (possibly source also of Lettish likstu "I come to terms").
Meaning "formal (usually written) permission from authority to do something" (marry, hunt, drive, etc.) is first attested early 15c. Meaning "excessive liberty, disregard of propriety" in English is from mid-15c. In Middle English spelled licence, licens, lisence, lissens, licance. There have been attempts to confine license to verbal use and licence to noun use (compare advise/advice, devise/device, and see note in OED).
Poetic license "intentional deviation from recognized form or rule" is from 1733, earlier as lycence poetycall (1530). The licence-plate is from 1870 (of dogs and wagons before automobiles); licence-number is by 1903.
- license (v.)
- c. 1400, "grant formal authorization to do what would be illegal to do without it," from licence (n.), which see for modern differentiation of spelling. Related: Licensed; Licensing.
- licensed (adj.)
- 1590s, "given privilege or free range," past-participle adjective from license (v.). Meaning "having been granted a license" is from 1630s.
- licensee (n.)
- "one to whom a licence is granted," 1837, from license (v.) + -ee.
- licensure (n.)
- "a licensing, the granting of a licence," 1808, from license (v.) + -ure.
- licentious (adj.)
- "morally unrestrained," 1530s, from Medieval Latin licentiosus "full of license, unrestrained," from Latin licentia "freedom, liberty," in both a good and bad sense (see licence (n.)). Related: Licentiously; licentiousness.
- lich (n.)
- also litch, lych, "body, corpse," a southern England dialectal survival of Old English lic "body, dead body, corpse," from Proto-Germanic *likow (source also of Old Frisian lik, Dutch lijk, Old High German lih, German Leiche "corpse, dead body," Old Norse lik, Danish lig, Swedish lik, Gothic leik), probably originally "form, shape," and identical with like (adj.).
Also in Old English in an expanded form lichama (Middle English licham), with hama "shape, garment, covering." This is etymologically pleonastic, but the image perhaps is of the body as the garment of the soul. The compound has a cognate in Old High German lihhinamo. A litch-gate is a roofed gate to a churchyard under which a bier is placed to await the coming of the clergyman; lich-owl "screech-owl" was so called because it was supposed to forebode death. Old English also had licburg "cemetery," lichhaemleas "incorporeal."
- lichen (n.)
- 1715, from Latin lichen, from Greek leichen "tree-moss, lichen," originally "what eats around itself," probably from leichein "to lick" (see lick (v.1)). Used earlier (c. 1600) of liverwort, which was thought to be related. Also in English, as in Greek, of eczema and certain other skin diseases. Related: Lichenic; licheniform; lichenous; lichenaceous.
- city in central England, Old English Licitfelda (c. 710) "Open Land near Letocetum" (Celtic place name meaning "gray wood"), with Old English feld.
- licit (adj.)
- "lawful, allowable," late 15c., from Latin licitus "lawful, permitted, allowed," past participle of licere "be allowed, be lawful" (see licence (n.)). Related: Licitly; licitness. In early 19c. England it was condemned unjustly as an Americanism.
- lick (v.1)
- Old English liccian "to pass the tongue over the surface, lap, lick up," from Proto-Germanic *likkon (source also of Old Saxon likkon, Dutch likken, Old High German lecchon, German lecken, Gothic bi-laigon), from PIE imitative base *leigh- (source also of Sanskrit ledhi "he licks," Armenian lizum "I lick," Greek leikhein "to lick," Latin lingere "to lick," Old Irish ligim "I lick," Welsh llwy "spoon").
French lécher, Italian leccare are said to be Germanic loan words. The figurative lick (one's) lips in eager anticipation is from c. 1500. Lick-ladle (1849) was an old phrase for a (human) parasite. To lick (someone or something) into shape (1610s) is in reference to the supposed ways of bears:
Beres ben brought forthe al fowle and transformyd and after that by lyckyng of the fader and the moder they ben brought in to theyr kyndely shap. ["The Pylgremage of the Sowle," 1413]
- lick (n.)
- "an act of licking," c. 1600, from lick (v.1). The earlier noun was licking (late 14c.; Old English had liccungMeaning "small portion" is 1814, originally Scottish; hence U.S. colloquial sense. Sense of "place where an animal goes to lick salt" is from 1747. The jazz music sense of "short figure or solo" is by 1922, perhaps from an earlier colloquial sense "a spurt or brisk run in racing" (1809). Meaning "a smart blow" (1670s) is from lick (v.2).
- lick (v.2)
- "to beat, surpass, overcome" 1535, perhaps from figurative use of lick (v.1) in the Coverdale bible that year in sense of "defeat, annihilate" (an enemy's forces) in Num. xxii:4:
Now shal this heape licke up all that is about vs, euen as an oxe licketh vp the grasse in the field.But to lick (of) the whip "taste punishment" is attested from mid-15c.
- lickerish (adj.)
- "fond of delicious fare," c. 1500, a corruption (as if from licker or liquor + -ish) of Middle English likerous "pleasing to the palate" (late 13c.), from Anglo-French *likerous, Old French licherous (see lecherous). Unlike the French word, it generally kept close to its literal sense. Related: Lickerishly; lickerishness.
- lickety-split (adj.)
- 1852, American English; earlier lickety-cut, lickety-click, and simply licketie (1817), probably a fanciful extension of lick (n.1) in its dialectal sense of "very fast sprint in a race" (1809) on the notion of a flick of the tongue as a fast thing (compare blink, snap).
- licking (n.)
- "an act of licking or lapping," late 14c., verbal noun from lick (v.1); meaning "a beating" (1756) is from lick (v.2).
- lickspittle (n.)
- also lick-spittle, "sycophant, abject toady, one who will do any repulsive thing," 1741, from lick (v.1) + spittle. Phrase lick the spittle as a repulsive act is from 1640s.
- licorice (n.)
- type of leguminous plant, the dried roots of which were anciently used as a medicine and as a sweet, also liquorice, c. 1200, licoriz, from Anglo-French lycoryc, Old French licorece (also recolice), from Late Latin liquiritia, alteration of Latin glychyrrhiza, from Greek glykyrrhiza, literally "sweet root," from glykys "sweet" (see gluco-) + rhiza "root" (see radish); form influenced in Latin by liquere "become fluid," because of the method of extracting the sweet stuff from the root. French réglisse, Italian regolizia are the same word, with metathesis of -l- and -r-.
- lictor (n.)
- late 14c., from Latin lictor "official attendant upon a magistrate," literally "binder," from past participle stem of *ligere "to bind, collect," collateral form of ligare "to bind, tie" (see ligament).
- lid (n.)
- "movable or removable cover for a pot, etc.," mid-13c., from Old English hlid "covering, opening, gate," from Proto-Germanic *khlithan (source also of Old Norse hlið "gate, gap," Swedish lid "gate," Old French hlid, Middle Dutch lit, Dutch lid, Old High German hlit "lid, cover"), from PIE root *klei- "to lean" (see lean (v.)), with here perhaps a sense of "that which bends over."
Meaning "eyelid" is from early 13c. Slang sense of "hat, cap" is attested from 1896. As a measure of marijuana, one ounce, 1967, presumably the amount of dried weed that would fit in some commercial jar lid. Slang phrase put a lid on "clamp down on, silence, end" is from 1906; many figurative senses are from the image of a pot boiling over.
- lidded (adj.)
- "having a lid" (of a specified kind), Old English gehlidod, a past-participle form, but no verb *hlidan is attested. See lid (n.).
- lidless (adj.)
- 1520s, from lid in the "eyelid" sense + -less; usually poetic, "sleepless, ever-vigilant," as if incapable of closing the eyes.
- famous resort island off Venice, from Italian lido, from Latin litus "shore" (see littoral). Formerly used generically for public swimming places.