liberal arts

plural noun

Definition of liberal arts

  1. 1 :  the medieval studies comprising the trivium and quadrivium

  2. 2 :  college or university studies (such as language, philosophy, literature, abstract science) intended to provide chiefly general knowledge and to develop general intellectual capacities (such as reason and judgment) as opposed to professional or vocational skills

Why do we call the liberal arts "liberal"?

The liberal in liberal arts, a cornerstone of the education of so many, has very little to do with political leanings; its roots can be traced to the Latin word liber, meaning “free, unrestricted.” Our language took the term from the Latin liberales artes, which described the education given to freeman and members of the upper classes, and involved training in the mind (grammar, logic, geometry, etc.). The lower classes were educated in the servile arts, which were mechanical or occupational in nature. The phrase liberal arts has been part of our language for a very long time, with use dating back to the 14th century.

14th Century

First Known Use of liberal arts

14th century


LIBERAL ARTS Defined for English Language Learners

liberal arts

plural noun

Definition of liberal arts for English Language Learners

  • : areas of study (such as history, language, and literature) that are intended to give you general knowledge rather than to develop specific skills needed for a profession



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