English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

The Wikipedia entry Gratis versus libre contains the following text:

Libre /ˈliːbrə/ in English is adopted from the various Romance languages, ultimately descending from the Latin word lībere; its origin is closely related to liberty. It denotes "the state of being free", as in "liberty" or "having freedom". The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) considers libre to be obsolete,[2] but the word has come back into limited[3] use. Unlike gratis, libre appears in few English dictionaries,[3] although there is no other English single-word adjective signifying "liberty" exclusively, without also meaning "at no monetary cost".

If there truly is no such word, then I must grudgingly accept the ugliness of Libre. I must admit that nothing springs readily to mind. Is there such a word?

EDIT: The basis of this question is that the people who coined (or revived) the term Libre didn't do so lightly. They were obviously of the opinion that it was necessary.

share|improve this question
Depends on what type of liberty you're talking about here—there are many. A few one-word adjectives to describe some of them: unhindered, unencumbered, unfettered, untied, unattached, unbound. Spot the pattern there? – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 23 '14 at 20:33
Doesn't the word liberty itself, have no association with being at no cost? – Neil W Mar 23 '14 at 22:44
No, one does not pronounce it /ˈlibrə/ in English as though it were the constellation Libra, but rather /ˈlibreɪ/. – tchrist Mar 23 '14 at 22:53
This is just a rehash of the whole “free software” demi-duplicity of Richard Stallman’s, which gave rise to Tim O’Reilly’s “open software” as a less-dishonest formulation for what boils down to virtually the same thing. Richard should have used something like unencumbered or unfettered, but he wanted to be cute, and perhaps even tricksy, so much so that it borders on being intentionally deceptive. Bottom line is that it confuses people, and this is bad. Tim used a nice simple little word, which works much better, and doesn’t make people think the wrong thing. – tchrist Mar 23 '14 at 22:59
@Neil Sorry, I misread your triple-negatived sentence into a positive. The word liberty has no cost element associated with it; the concept may be otherwise. – tchrist Mar 23 '14 at 23:19

Liberated is the adjective most closely associated with liberty.

share|improve this answer
Although that implies missing clothing items... which I suppose is another meaning of the word free :) – Stew Mar 23 '14 at 22:09

There is no good general-purpose word for this in English. That's why we have the phrases "free as in speech" and "free as in beer." You can say "freed" (as in "freedman") or "liberated" or "at liberty," but those all have more specific connotations.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

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