We use owned to denote something that we possess or that belongs to someone. What can we call things that do not belong to someone?

[Editor's note: I can't tell whether the asker wants a word for something that a specific person does not own, or a word for something that nobody owns.]

  • 2
    Not bad,that was quite a Gouda pun!!
    – user5531
    Mar 24, 2011 at 14:48
  • :groans and begs for mercy:
    – Yitzchak
    Mar 24, 2011 at 15:23
  • @cindi, @ArthurRex: THWACKS all around.
    – Marthaª
    Mar 24, 2011 at 16:01
  • Duck with a lisp: thwack,thwack....afthwack,afthwack...
    – user5531
    Mar 24, 2011 at 16:27

8 Answers 8


for something not owned by someone you say "not his." Example:

The bicycle is not Joe's.

For something that doesn't belong to anyone, I would use "ownerless." Example:

The stray dog is ownerless

  • Thanks. I was looking for the word ownerless. But don't know how to ask that as a question
    – ssri
    Mar 25, 2011 at 5:11
  • Just out of curiosity, were you trying to translate the Hebrew word הפקר? That's the only way I've ever used the word "ownerless in English.
    – Yitzchak
    Mar 25, 2011 at 20:31

For intellectual property, you can say: It is in the public domain (not covered by copyright and hence belongs to no one)

  • And the concept also applies to, eg, land which is somehow held in common.
    – Hot Licks
    Aug 4, 2018 at 18:37

Something can be unclaimed or abandoned property.


The word "unowned" exists, but it usually means "not owned by anybody" as opposed to "not owned by a particular person".

So "This bike is unowned by me" is possible, but unusual. "A sale of unowned property" is perhaps more likely.

In some software systems, items may have owners (whatever that might mean in that system), and we could talk about an "unowned item" there.



  • I am assuming the extra periods are because of the character limit. See the discussion on meta for the appropriate way to deal with this.
    – MrHen
    Apr 11, 2011 at 16:02

If I understood you question correctly, you can say "not owned".

I own a bike → This bike is owned by me. (This bike is mine.)

I don't own a bike → This bike is not owned by me. (This bike is not mine.)


Humans (and animals) that do not belong to someone or something are often called free. Objects that do not belong to anyone can also be seen as free (for the taking).


If shared among a group, something can be considered to be communal property.

In the town, bicycles are considered communal property: you simply take one from the designated rack and leave it in the corresponding rack at the destination.

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