laissez-faire

noun

lais·​sez-faire ˌle-ˌsā-ˈfer How to pronounce laissez-faire (audio)
ˌlā-,
-ˌzā-
1
: a doctrine opposing governmental interference in economic affairs beyond the minimum necessary for the maintenance of peace and property rights
argued that the problem with oil prices was too much laissez-faire
2
: a philosophy or practice characterized by a usually deliberate abstention from direction or interference especially with individual freedom of choice and action
the university has a policy of laissez-faire regarding nonacademic student activities
laissez-faire adjective

Did you know?

The French phrase laissez faire literally means "allow to do," with the idea being "let people do as they choose." The origins of laissez-faire are associated with the Physiocrats, a group of 18th-century French economists who believed that government policy should not interfere with the operation of natural economic laws. The actual coiner of the phrase may have been French economist Vincent de Gournay, or it may have been François Quesnay, who is considered the group's founder and leader. The original phrase was laissez faire, laissez passer, with the second part meaning "let (things) pass." Laissez-faire, which first showed up in an English context in the first half of the 19th century, can still mean "a doctrine opposing governmental interference in economic affairs," but it is also used in broader contexts in which a "hands-off" or "anything-goes" policy or attitude is adopted. It is frequently used attributively before another noun.

Word History

Etymology

French laissez faire, imperative of laisser faire to let (people) do (as they choose)

First Known Use

1814, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of laissez-faire was in 1814

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Dictionary Entries Near laissez-faire

Cite this Entry

“Laissez-faire.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/laissez-faire. Accessed 2 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition

laissez-faire

noun

lais·​sez-faire
ˌle-ˌsā-ˈfa(ə)r,
ˌlā-,
-ˌzā-,
-ˈfe(ə)r
: a doctrine opposing governmental interference in economic affairs
laissez-faire adjective
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