Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

This phrase is all over the internet. They will say that something is free as in 'free beer' and free as in 'free speech'. I have never really understood this.

Are these the examples of two different types of 'free'?

share|improve this question

closed as general reference by RegDwigнt Jul 13 '11 at 10:37

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

2 Answers 2

up vote 35 down vote accepted

Wikipedia on Gratis versus Libre:

Gratis versus libre is the distinction between two meanings of the English adjective "free"; namely, "for zero price" (gratis) and "with few or no restrictions" (libre). The ambiguity of "free" can cause issues where the distinction is important, as it often is in dealing with laws concerning the use of information, such as copyright and patents.

And further:

With the advent of the free software movement, license schemes were created to give developers more freedom in terms of code sharing, commonly called open source or free and open source software. As the English adjective free does not distinguish between "for zero price" and "liberty", the phrases "free as in free beer" (gratis, freeware) and "free as in free speech" (libre, free software) were adopted. [...]

"Free software is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the concept, you should think of free as in free speech, not as in free beer." — Richard Stallman

Emphasis added.

share|improve this answer
2  
+1 For the excellent explanation, as well as the Richard Stallman quote. –  Zoot Jan 27 '11 at 17:56

Free beer means you do not have to pay for it. Free speech means you can say what you want. These are two different meanings.

share|improve this answer

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.