'Free' absolutely means 'free from any sorts constraints or
controls. The context determines its different denotations, if any, as
in 'free press', 'fee speech', 'free stuff' etc.
Old English freo "free, exempt from, not in bondage, acting of one's own will," also "noble; joyful," from Proto-Germanic *frija-
"beloved; not in bondage" (source also of Old Frisian fri, Old Saxon
vri, Old High German vri, German frei, Dutch vrij, Gothic freis
"free"), from PIE *priy-a- "dear, beloved," from root *pri- "to love"
(source also of Sanskrit priyah "own, dear, beloved," priyate "loves;"
Old Church Slavonic prijati "to help," prijatelji "friend;" Welsh
Meaning "clear of obstruction" is from mid-13c.; sense of
"unrestrained in movement" is from c. 1300; of animals, "loose, at
liberty, wild," late 14c. Meaning "liberal, not parsimonious" is from
c. 1300. Sense of "characterized by liberty of action or expression"
is from 1630s; of art, etc., "not holding strictly to rule or form,"
from 1813. Of nations, "not subject to foreign rule or to despotism,"
recorded in English from late 14c. (Free world "non-communist nations"
attested from 1950 on notion of "based on principles of civil
liberty.") Sense of "given without cost" is 1580s, from notion of
"free of cost."