use-icon

HOW TO USE THE DICTIONARY

Learn what the dictionary tells you about words.

Get Started Now!

Some compound words (like bus rapid transit, dog whistle, or identity theft) don’t appear on the drop-down list when you enter them into the search window. If a compound term doesn’t appear in the drop-down list, try entering the term into the search window and then hit the search button (instead of the “enter” key). Alternatively, begin searches for compound terms with a quotation mark.

use-icon

THE USAGE PANEL

The Usage Panel is a group of nearly 200 prominent scholars, creative writers, journalists, diplomats, and others in occupations requiring mastery of language. The Panelists are surveyed annually to gauge the acceptability of particular usages and grammatical constructions.

The Panelists

puzzle-icon

NEED HELP SOLVING A CROSSWORD PUZZLE?

Go to our Crossword Puzzle Solver and type in the letters that you know, and the Solver will produce a list of possible solutions.

open-icon

INTERESTED IN DICTIONARIES?

Check out the Dictionary Society of North America at http://www.dictionarysociety.com

open-icon

AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY APP

The new American Heritage Dictionary app is now available for iOS and Android.

scroll-icon

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:

Indo-European Roots

Semitic Roots

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.

open-icon

OPEN DICTIONARY PROJECT

Share your ideas for new words and new meanings of old words!

Start Sharing Now!

100-words-icon

See word lists from the best-selling 100 Words Series!

Find out more!

lib·er·ty (lĭbər-tē)
Share:
n. pl. lib·er·ties
1. The condition of being free from confinement, servitude, or forced labor.
2.
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 cheekI 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.
Idioms:
at liberty
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 ©2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 

This website is best viewed in Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, or Safari. Some characters in pronunciations and etymologies cannot be displayed properly in Internet Explorer.