Simple Definition of licentious
: sexually immoral or offensive
Full Definition of licentious
1 : lacking legal or moral restraints; especially : disregarding sexual restraints
2 : marked by disregard for strict rules of correctness
Examples of licentious in a sentence
<a moralist who decried what she regarded as the licentious and corrupt culture of the entertainment industry>
The Shared Roots of license and licentious
License and licentious come ultimately from the same word in Latin, licentia, whose meanings ranged from "freedom to act" to "unruly behavior, wantonness." The Latin noun was itself derived from the verb licere "to be permitted." Though we are likely to associate license with the card that grants freedom or permission to operate a motor vehicle and licentious with sexual wantonness, in actuality, there is considerable semantic overlap between the two words. Poetic license refers to deviation from a (usually) literary norm for some purposeful effect. A person who takes license with something (or someone) engages in "abusive disregard for rules of personal conduct." Hence, the semantic range of license in English mirrors that of its Latin antecedent, suggesting either permission or transgression, depending upon the context. Licentious, on the other hand, always implies excessive, transgressive freedom, as is true of its immediate Latin source, licentiosus "unrestrained, wanton" (literally, "full of freedom").
Origin of licentious
Latin licentiosus, from licentia
First Known Use: 1535
Legal Definition of licentious
: disregarding legal restraints especially with regard to sexual relations <arrested as a prostitute for licentious sexual intercourse>
Seen and Heard
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