free solo

1 of 2


plural free solos
rock climbing
: a climb in which a climber uses no artificial aids for support and has no rope or other safety equipment for protection in case of a fall
Before attempting his free solo of Moonlight Buttress, [Alex] Honnold rehearsed the most challenging pitch on rope repeatedly, until he had memorized each move.Nathaniel Rich
He's attempting to do something that professional rock climbers have long thought was impossible—a "free solo" ascent of the world's most iconic cliff. That means he is alone and climbing without a rope as he inches his way up more than half a mile of sheer rock.Mark Synnott
free soloist noun
plural free soloists
Aside from good sneakers and a bit of friction-inducing chalk on the palms, there is nothing to prevent a free soloist from a fatal fall. Rafer Guzmán
Honnold … has become the world's pre-eminent free soloist, traveling around the world to scale seemingly unscalable mountains. G. Allen Johnson

free solo

2 of 2


variants or free-solo
free soloed or free-soloed; free soloing or free-soloing; free soloes or free-soloes

transitive + intransitive

rock climbing
: to perform a free solo climb of a rock face, climbing route, etc. : to climb without the use of artificial aids or safety equipment
On June 3, 2017, Alex Honnold free soloed the Freerider route of El Capitan in three hours and 56 minutes.Bret Stephens
When a climber "free solos" a route, any mistake will result in falling to your death.C. Moon Reed
"When I free-solo, I personally only do climbs I've climbed before," [Austen] McNulty said.Tim Drugan-Eppich
free soloing noun
or free-soloing
In the sport of free soloing, which means climbing with only a powdery chalk bag and rock shoes—no rope, no gear, nothing to keep you stuck to the stone but your own belief and ability—doubt is dangerous. Mark Jenkins

Examples of free solo in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
Bickers will give a free solo organ recital to celebrate Village Presbyterian’s 75th anniversary March 1 at the church. Patrick Neas, Kansas City Star, 23 Feb. 2024 This stomach-dropping doc, chronicling Alex Honnold's efforts to make the first free solo (that is, no ropes) climb up the vertical face of Yosemite’s El Capitan, is one of the most breathless action movies ever made. Declan Gallagher,, 21 Jan. 2024 Dani Arnold completing a free solo ascent of Crack Baby, an icefall in Kandersteg, Switzerland. Jacopo Pasotti, WIRED, 25 Jan. 2024 Rocky Mountain National Park:Woman dies after falling 500 feet while free solo climbing Other recent deaths at Rocky Mountain National Park On July 2, a 24-year-old man from Las Vegas died after falling into the water at West Creek Falls, the Coloradoan reported. Francisco Guzman, USA TODAY, 14 Aug. 2023 Adventurous souls can scale the sheer Arizona desert cliffs without ever being at risk of falling — kind of an accessible free solo situation — to the top of 400-foot Castle Peak. Maya Kachroo-Levine, Travel + Leisure, 28 May 2023 My Hand My Cause was founded in late 2021 and also features an astronaut and free solo rock climber along with Nowitzki and Prescott. Brice Paterik, Dallas News, 12 Apr. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'free solo.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use


1977, in the meaning defined above


1977, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of free solo was in 1977

Dictionary Entries Near free solo

Cite this Entry

“Free solo.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 May. 2024.

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