free

1 of 3

adjective

freer; freest
1
: not costing or charging anything
a free school
a free ticket
2
a
: having the legal and political rights of a citizen
For many African Americans, celebrating the Fourth of July as the day Americans became free from British rule feels inapplicable since our ancestors were not free. Christen A. Johnson
b
: enjoying civil and political liberty
free citizens
c
: enjoying political independence or freedom from outside domination
This is a free country.
d
: enjoying personal freedom : not subject to the control or domination of another
You are free to do whatever you want.
3
a
: not determined by anything beyond its own nature or being : choosing or capable of choosing for itself
a player free to negotiate a contract with any team
b
: determined by the choice of the actor or performer
free actions
c
: made, done, or given voluntarily or spontaneously
gave his free consent
4
a
: relieved from or lacking something and especially something unpleasant or burdensome
free from pain
a speech free of political rhetoric
often used in combination
error-free
b
: not bound, confined, or detained by force
The prisoner is now free.
5
a
: having no trade restrictions
duty-free imports
b
: not subject to government regulation
free competition
c
of foreign exchange : not subject to restriction or official control
6
a
: having no obligations (as to work) or commitments
I'll be free this evening
b
: not taken up with commitments or obligations
a free evening
7
: having a scope not restricted by qualification
a free variable
8
a
: not obstructed, restricted, or impeded
free to leave
b
: not being used or occupied
waved with his free hand
c
: not hampered or restricted in its normal operation
9
a
: not fastened
the free end of the rope
b
: not confined to a particular position or place
in twelve-tone music, no note is wholly free for it must hold its place in the series J. L. Stewart
c
: capable of moving or turning in any direction
a free particle
d
: performed without apparatus
free tumbling
e
: done with artificial aids (such as pitons) used only for protection against falling and not for support
a free climb
10
a
: not parsimonious
free spending
b
: outspoken
is free in his criticism
c
: availing oneself of something without stint
she's very free with her money
d
: frank, open
e
: overly familiar or forward in action or attitude
a young man who had been much too free with the ladies of the town Harvey Graham
f
: licentious
inexcusably free talk before the ladies
11
a(1)
: not united with, attached to, combined with, or mixed with something else : separate
free ores
a free surface of a bodily part
(2)
: freestanding
a free column
b
: chemically uncombined
free oxygen
free acids
c
: not permanently attached but able to move about
a free electron in a metal
d
: capable of being used alone as a meaningful linguistic form
the word hats is a free form
compare bound entry 1 sense 7
12
a
: not literal or exact
free translation
b
: not restricted by or conforming to conventional forms
free skating
13
: favorable
used of a wind blowing from a direction more than six points from dead ahead
14
: not allowing slavery
was admitted to the Union as a free state
15
: open to all comers
that most pleasurable of Anglo-Saxon pastimes, a free fight Winston Churchill
freeness noun

free

2 of 3

adverb

1
: in a free manner
2
: without charge
3
: with the wind more than six points from dead ahead
sailing free

free

3 of 3

verb

freed; freeing; frees

transitive verb

1
a
: to cause to be free
b
: to relieve or rid of what restrains, confines, restricts, or embarrasses
free a person from debt
often used with up
free up space on the hard drive
2
obsolete : banish
Phrases
for free
: without charge

Did you know?

Can Something Be "For free?"

The word free is often encountered on the heels of the word for, and this combination sets some people’s teeth on edge. The main objection to the phrase for free is that, in this instance, free functions as an adverb rather than a noun and therefore should not be in the intimate company of the preposition for. Following this line of reasoning, a more correct phrasing would be to say that something is offered for nothing, for no charge, or some other combination of preposition + noun. Unfortunately for critics of the expression, English users do not agree. Despite its recent adoption in the mid-20th century and its informality, for free is in widespread use and is generally accepted in standard speech and writing.

Choose the Right Synonym for free

Adjective

free, independent, sovereign, autonomous mean not subject to the rule or control of another.

free stresses the complete absence of external rule and the full right to make all of one's own decisions.

you're free to do as you like

independent implies a standing alone; applied to a state it implies lack of connection with any other having power to interfere with its citizens, laws, or policies.

the colony's struggle to become independent

sovereign stresses the absence of a superior power and implies supremacy within a thing's own domain or sphere.

separate and sovereign armed services

autonomous stresses independence in matters pertaining to self-government.

in this denomination each congregation is regarded as autonomous

Verb

free, release, liberate, emancipate, manumit mean to set loose from restraint or constraint.

free implies a usually permanent removal from whatever binds, confines, entangles, or oppresses.

freed the animals from their cages

release suggests a setting loose from confinement, restraint, or a state of pressure or tension, often without implication of permanent liberation.

released his anger on a punching bag

liberate stresses particularly the resulting state of liberty.

liberated their country from the tyrant

emancipate implies the liberation of a person from subjection or domination.

labor-saving devices emancipated us from household drudgery

manumit implies emancipation from slavery.

the document manumitted the slaves

Example Sentences

Adjective They're giving out free tickets to the show. The school newsletter is free. After 10 years in jail, he was finally a free man. The animal struggled to get free of the trap. His legs became caught in the net, and he was unable to get himself free. Adverb The gate opened, and the animals ran free. Buy one, get one free. Verb The gunman freed two of the hostages. The animals were freed from their cages. His legs became tangled in the net, and he was unable to free himself. He was unable to free his legs from the net. The animal struggled to free itself from the trap. Hiring an assistant has freed him to spend more time with his family. She encourages her students to free their imaginations. See More
Recent Examples on the Web
Adjective
More top reads: Get smarter about markets with our free newsletter, delivered to your inbox every morning. WSJ, 18 Nov. 2022 Previously, these check marks were free and indicated an account was authentic—that’s the real New York Times, the real President Joe Biden, the real Slim Jim, and so on. Kaitlyn Tiffany, The Atlantic, 18 Nov. 2022 Admission is $5 per person; children under age 12 are free. Elaine Rewolinski, Journal Sentinel, 18 Nov. 2022 The vaccines are free; monkeypox vaccines are confidential. Julie Washington, cleveland, 17 Nov. 2022 But both within the album’s context and in and of themselves, Blount notes, the songs are free from religious orthodoxy. Katherine Proctor, Los Angeles Times, 17 Nov. 2022 According to Slamdance, Moby will give the movie away for free after the premiere, in the spirit of punk rock. Sean P. Means, The Salt Lake Tribune, 15 Nov. 2022 Toyland will also give attendees a behind-the-scenes view of Santa's Workshop and allow children to ride the toy train for free between 5-8 p.m. on select Saturdays between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Nour Rahal, Detroit Free Press, 12 Nov. 2022 Active-duty military and veterans with a valid military ID can also enter the San Antonio Zoo for free all month. Shepard Price, San Antonio Express-News, 11 Nov. 2022
Adverb
The project would return the lower half of California’s second-largest river to a free-flowing state for the first time in more than a century. Gillian Flaccus, Anchorage Daily News, 17 Nov. 2022 Take this portrait gallery wall by Jeffrey Dungan as an example, where circle frames add a free-flowing romance to the scene. Alyssa Longobucco, House Beautiful, 28 Oct. 2022 Days before the deadline, donors have raised funds to buy and preserve 91 acres along one of the Southeast’s last free-flowing rivers in Jackson County. Lee Roop | Lroop@al.com, al, 28 Oct. 2022 The two sat down with EW for a free-ranging conversation about, among other things, reaching for authenticity, getting weird with Anthony Hopkins, and the hazards of era-appropriate foodstuffs. Leah Greenblatt, EW.com, 5 Oct. 2022 Even free-ranging dogs tend to drift away from their mothers. Rivka Galchen, The New Yorker, 18 Sep. 2022 While the disease is not common in Ohio, it has been found in free-ranging populations in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, as well as many western states and Canada. Cameron Knight, The Enquirer, 24 Aug. 2022 That less-than-maternal response is characteristic of the smart, tart voice that animates Rodgers’s autobiography, crafted from three years of free-ranging conversations with New York Times theater critic Jesse Green. Wendy Smith, Washington Post, 11 Aug. 2022 The team started with North America’s largest mammal since the free-ranging bison spend much of their time grazing, keeping certain plants in check and allowing others to flourish. Erika Page, The Christian Science Monitor, 4 Apr. 2022
Verb
Ukraine announced a high-profile prisoner swap early Thursday that was the culmination of months of efforts to free many of the Ukrainian fighters who defended a steel plant in Mariupol during a long Russian siege. Karl Ritter, ajc, 22 Sep. 2022 Meanwhile, negotiation efforts to free the two men continue. Leada Gore | Lgore@al.com, al, 27 June 2022 In the years since, the Astros lost shortstop Carlos Correa and center fielder George Springer to free agency, along with pitcher Gerrit Cole, who was a member of the team in 2018 and 2019. Lindsey Adler, WSJ, 6 Nov. 2022 Tailfin grants free worldwide shipping on orders over $340. Matt Beer, Outside Online, 2 Nov. 2022 The agency touted the move as a change that will smooth out COVID-19 reporting work across the nation and free up resources. Adrianna Rodriguez, USA TODAY, 7 Oct. 2022 Dilligence Training holds monthly events and free monthly youth classes. Steve Smith, Hartford Courant, 26 Oct. 2022 The state health department said Monday the Mitten State is the first to launch this federal initiative at neighborhood testing sites to provide quick access to free COVID-19 antiviral medications. Christina Hall, Detroit Free Press, 5 Oct. 2022 Indianapolis also lost special teams standout George Odum to free agency this spring. Nate Atkins, The Indianapolis Star, 30 Aug. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'free.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History

Etymology

Adjective, Adverb, and Verb

Middle English, from Old English frēo; akin to Old High German frī free, Welsh rhydd, Sanskrit priya own, dear

First Known Use

Adjective

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2a

Adverb

1559, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of free was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near free

Cite this Entry

“Free.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/free. Accessed 1 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition

free 1 of 3

adjective

freer
ˈfrē-ər
; freest
ˈfrē-əst
1
a
: having liberty : not being a slave
free citizens
b
: not controlled by others : independent
a free country
a free press
2
a
: released or not suffering from something unpleasant or painful
free from worry
free from disease
b
: not bound or contained by or as if by force
you are free to leave
3
: having nothing that must be done instead
I'm free tomorrow night
4
a
: not blocked : clear
free space
b
: not being used or occupied
free time
5
: not fastened
the free end of the rope
6
: not cheap : generous
a free spender
7
: not costing or charging anything
free tickets
8
: not held back by fear or distrust
free expression of opinion
9
: not combined with something else
free oxygen
10
: able to be used alone as a meaningful unit of language
the word "hats" is a free form
11
: not restricted by or limited to the usual forms
free skating
freely adverb

free

2 of 3

verb

freed; freeing
: to make or set free

free

3 of 3

adverb

1
: in a free manner
2
: without charge

Medical Definition

freer; freest
1
a
: relieved from or lacking something and especially something unpleasant or burdensome
free from pain
b
: not bound or confined by force
upon opening the skull a considerable amount of free blood is noted H. G. Armstrong
2
a(1)
: not united with, attached to, combined with, or mixed with something else
a free surface of a bodily part
(2)
: having the bare axon exposed in tissue
a free nerve ending
b
: not chemically combined
free calcium
c
: not permanently attached but able to move about
a free electron in a metal
3
: having all living connections severed before removal to another site
a free graft
research … in free flap transfers B. R. Alford

Legal Definition

free 1 of 2

adjective

1
a
: having the legal and political rights of a citizen
b
: enjoying civil and political liberty
a free people
c
: enjoying political independence or freedom from outside domination
these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent States Declaration of Independence
d
: not subject to the control or domination of another
2
: made or done as a matter of choice and right : not compelled or restricted
no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof U.S. Constitution amend. I
a free and voluntary confession
3
: relieved from or lacking a burden (as a lien or other encumbrance on title)
a buyer in ordinary course of business…takes free of a security interest created by the buyer's seller Uniform Commercial Code
4
: not bound, confined, or detained by force
free on bail
5
a
: having no trade restrictions
b
: not subject to government regulation
c
of foreign exchange : not subject to restriction or official control
6
: not costing or charging anything
for free
: without charge
freely adverb

free

2 of 2

transitive verb

freed; freeing
1
: to cause to be free
2
: to relieve or rid of what constrains, confines, restricts, or burdens

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