license

1 of 2

noun

li·​cense ˈlī-sᵊn(t)s How to pronounce license (audio)
variants or licence
1
a
: permission to act
b
: freedom of action
2
a
: a permission granted by competent authority to engage in a business or occupation or in an activity otherwise unlawful
a hunting license
b
: a document, plate, or tag evidencing a license granted
c
: a grant by the holder of a copyright or patent to another of any of the rights embodied in the copyright or patent short of an assignment of all rights
3
a
: freedom that allows or is used with irresponsibility
Freedom of the press should not be turned into license.
b
: disregard for standards of personal conduct : licentiousness
4
: deviation from fact, form, or rule by an artist or writer for the sake of the effect gained
poetic license

license

2 of 2

verb

variants or less commonly licence
licensed also licenced; licensing also licencing

transitive verb

1
a
: to issue a license to
b
: to permit or authorize especially by formal license
2
: to give permission or consent to : allow
licensable adjective
licensor
ˈlī-sᵊn(t)-sər How to pronounce license (audio)
ˌli-sᵊn-ˈsȯr
noun
or less commonly licenser

Did you know?

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").

Choose the Right Synonym for license

freedom, liberty, license mean the power or condition of acting without compulsion.

freedom has a broad range of application from total absence of restraint to merely a sense of not being unduly hampered or frustrated.

freedom of the press

liberty suggests release from former restraint or compulsion.

the released prisoner had difficulty adjusting to his new liberty

license implies freedom specially granted or conceded and may connote an abuse of freedom.

freedom without responsibility may degenerate into license

Examples of license in a Sentence

Noun The restaurant's owner applied for a license to sell liquor. His job as a reporter gives him license to go anywhere and ask anything. Verb The restaurant has now been licensed to sell liquor. a new drug licensed by the government The company licensed its name to others.
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
According to the initiative, expanded late season urban archery received the most support (100%), while expanded antler-point restrictions and changes to the combination license received the least support (54%). Carly Moran | The Center Square, Washington Examiner - Political News and Conservative Analysis About Congress, the President, and the Federal Government, 10 July 2024 This article is republished from the Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Alice Neikirk, Smithsonian Magazine, 8 July 2024
Verb
Thomas recommended making sure providers are licensed appropriately ahead of time. Erika Edwards, NBC News, 11 July 2024 Like virtually all major US cities, San Francisco required taxi firms to be licensed according to an old-fashioned medallion system that limited the number of cabs. Will Daniel, Fortune, 9 July 2024 See all Example Sentences for license 

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

Word History

Etymology

Noun and Verb

Middle English, from Anglo-French licence, from Latin licentia, from licent-, licens, present participle of licēre to be permitted

First Known Use

Noun

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Verb

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of license was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near license

Cite this Entry

“License.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/license. Accessed 18 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition

license

1 of 2 noun
li·​cense
variants or licence
1
a
: permission granted by qualified authority to do something
b
: a document, plate, or tag showing that such permission has been granted
2
: liberty of action that is carried too far

license

2 of 2 verb
variants also licence
licensed also licenced; licensing also licencing
: to permit or authorize by license
licensable adjective

Medical Definition

license

noun
li·​cense
variants or chiefly British licence
: a permission granted by competent authority to engage in a business or occupation or in an activity otherwise unlawful
a license to practice medicine
license transitive verb
or chiefly British licence
licensed or chiefly British licenced; licensing or chiefly British licencing

Legal Definition

license

1 of 2 noun
li·​cense
ˈlīs-ᵊns
1
a
: a right or permission granted by a competent authority (as of a government or a business) to engage in some business or occupation, do some act, or engage in some transaction which would be unlawful without such right or permission
also : a document, plate, or tag evidencing a license granted
b
: revocable authority or permission given solely to one having no possessory rights in a tract of land to do something on that land which would otherwise be unlawful or a trespass compare easement, lease
c
: a grant by the holder of a copyright or patent to another of any of the rights embodied in the copyright or patent short of an assignment of all rights
2
: a defense (as to trespass) that one's act was in accordance with a license granted
3
a
: freedom that allows or is used with irresponsibility
b
: disregard for standards of personal conduct : licentiousness

license

2 of 2 transitive verb
licensed; licensing
1
: to issue a license to
2
: to permit or authorize by a license
Etymology

Noun

Anglo-French, literally, permission, from Old French, from Latin licentia, from licent-, licens, present participle of licēre to be permitted, be for sale

More from Merriam-Webster on license

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!