n. pl. lib·er·tiesIdioms:
1. The condition of being free from confinement, servitude, or forced labor.
a. The condition of being free from oppressive restriction or control by a government or other power.
b. A right to engage in certain actions without control or interference by a government or other power: the liberties protected by the Bill of Rights.
3. The right or power to act as one chooses: "Her upcountry isolation ... gave her the liberty to be what she wanted to be, free of the pressure of spotlights and literary fashions" (Lucinda Franks).
4. often liberties A deliberate departure from what is proper, accepted, or prudent, especially:
a. A breach or overstepping of propriety or social convention: "I'd leave her with a little kiss on the cheek—I never took liberties" (Harold Pinter).
b. A departure from strict compliance: took several liberties with the recipe.
c. A deviation from accepted truth or known fact: a historical novel that takes liberties with chronology.
d. An unwarranted risk; a chance: took foolish liberties on the ski slopes.
5. A period, usually short, during which a sailor is authorized to go ashore.
1. Not in confinement or under constraint; free.
2. Entitled or permitted to do something: We found ourselves at liberty to explore the grounds.
take the liberty
To dare (to do something) on one's own initiative or without asking permission: I took the liberty to send you these pictures of my vacation.
[Middle English liberte, from Old French, from Latin lībertās, from līber, free; see leudh- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.