- free (adj.)
- Old English freo "free, exempt from, not in bondage," also "noble; joyful," from Proto-Germanic *frijaz (cognates: Old Frisian fri, Old Saxon and Old High German vri, German frei, Dutch vrij, Gothic freis "free"), from PIE *prijos "dear, beloved," from root *pri- "to love" (cognates: Sanskrit priyah "own, dear, beloved," priyate "loves;" Old Church Slavonic prijati "to help," prijatelji "friend;" Welsh rhydd "free").
The primary sense seems to have been "beloved, friend, to love;" which in some languages (notably Germanic and Celtic) developed also a sense of "free," perhaps from the terms "beloved" or "friend" being applied to the free members of one's clan (as opposed to slaves; compare Latin liberi, meaning both "free" and "children").
Compare Gothic frijon "to love;" Old English freod "affection, friendship," friga "love," friðu "peace;" Old Norse friðr, German Friede "peace;" Old English freo "wife;" Old Norse Frigg "wife of Odin," literally "beloved" or "loving;" Middle Low German vrien "to take to wife," Dutch vrijen, German freien "to woo."
Of nations, "not subject to foreign rule or to despotism," it is recorded from late 14c. (Free world "non-communist nations" attested from 1950.) Sense of "given without cost" is 1580s, from notion of "free of cost." Free lunch, originally offered in bars to draw in business, by 1850, American English. Free pass on railways, etc., attested by 1850. Free speech in Britain used of a privilege in Parliament since the time of Henry VIII. In U.S., as a civil right, it became a prominent phrase in the debates over the Gag Rule (1836).
Free enterprise recorded from 1890; free trade is from 1823. Free will is from early 13c. Free association in psychology is from 1899. Free love "sexual liberation" attested from 1822. Free range (adj.) is attested by 1960. Free and easy "unrestrained" is from 1690s.
- free (v.)
- Old English freogan "to free, liberate, manumit," also "to love, think of lovingly, honor," from freo (see free (adj.)). Compare Old Frisian fria "to make free;" Old Saxon friohan "to court, woo;" German befreien "to free," freien "to woo;" Old Norse frja "to love;" Gothic frijon "to love." Related: Freed; freeing.
- free verse (n.)
- 1908; see vers libre.
- free-born (adj.)
- mid-14c., from free (adj.) + born.
- free-for-all (n.)
- "mass brawl" (one in which all may participate), 1881.
- free-hand (adv.)
- of drawing, from 1848; see free (adj.) + hand.
- free-spirited (adj.)
- also freespirited, 1670s, from free (adj.) + spirited.
- free-thinker (n.)
- 1690s, from free (adj.) + agent noun from think (v.).
- 1980 (noun and verb), in reference to cocaine. As a chemical process, it returns a salt form of an alkaloid to its pure form. Related: Freebased; freebasing.
- also freeby, 1942 (adj.); 1946 (n.); perhaps as early as 1900; formed "arbitrarily" [OED] from free (adj.).
- freebooter (n.)
- 1560s, loan-translation of Dutch vrijbuiter "plunderer, robber," from vrijbuiten "to rob, plunder," from vrijbuit "plunder," literally "free booty," from vrij "free" + buit "booty," from buiten "to exchange or plunder," from Middle Dutch buten, related to Middle Low German bute "exchange" (see booty). See filibuster. The back-formed verb freeboot is recorded from 1590s.
- freedman (n.)
- "manumitted slave," c.1600, from past participle of free (adj.) + man (n.). Also see freeman.
- freedom (n.)
- Old English freodom "freedom, state of free will; charter, emancipation, deliverance;" see free (adj.) + -dom. Freedom-rider recorded 1961, in reference to civil rights activists in U.S. trying to integrate bus lines.
It has been said by some physicians, that life is a forced state. The same may be said of freedom. It requires efforts, it presupposes mental and moral qualities of a high order to be generally diffused in the society where it exists. [John C. Calhoun, speech, U.S. House of Representatives, Jan. 31, 1816]
Freedom fighter attested by 1903 (originally with reference to Cuba).
Freedom Rider Situation Cuts Into Montgomery Juke, Game Revenues [headline, "Billboard," July 24, 1961]
- also free fall, free-fall, 1919, originally of parachutists and in rocketry, from free (adj.) + fall (v.).
- freehold (n.)
- early 15c. (implied in freeholder), translating Anglo-French fraunc tenement; see free (adj.) + hold (n.). Related: Freeholder.
- freelance (n.)
- also free lance, free-lance, "medieval mercenary warrior," 1820 ("Ivanhoe"), from free (adj.) + lance (n.); apparently a coinage of Sir Walter Scott's. Figurative sense is from 1864; specifically of journalism by 1882.
- freelance (v.)
- 1902, from freelance (n.). Related: Freelancer (1898); freelanced; freelancing.
- freeloader (n.)
- also free-loader, by 1939, from free (adj.) + agent noun from load (v.). Related: Freeloading. As a verb, freeload is attested by 1967.
- freely (adv.)
- Old English freolice; see free (adj.) + -ly (2).
- freeman (n.)
- Old English freoman; see free (adj.) + man (n.).
- Freemason (n.)
- late 14c., originally a traveling guild of masons with a secret code; in the early 17c. they began accepting honorary members and teaching them the secrets and lore, which by 1717 had developed into the fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons.
The exact origin of the free- is a subject of dispute. Some [such as Klein] see a corruption of French frère "brother," from frèremaçon "brother mason;" others say it was because the masons worked on "free-standing" stones; still others see them as "free" from the control of local guilds or lords [OED].
- Freemasonry (n.)
- mid-15c., from freemason + -ry.
- freer (n.)
- "one who sets free," c.1600, from free + -er (1).
- freer (adj.)
- comparative of free. See -er (2).
- freestyle (n.)
- 1912, in swimming, in reference to a distance race in which the swimmers may use whatever stroke they choose; 1950 in general use, from free + style. As an adjective, from 1957; as a verb, by 1970 (in martial arts).
- freewheeling (adj.)
- 1903, from free wheel (1899, see free (adj.) + wheel); a bicycle wheel that turns even when not being pedaled, later from the name of a kind of automobile drive system that allowed cars to coast without being slowed by the engine. Figurative sense is from 1911.
- freeze (v.)
- Old English freosan "turn to ice" (class II strong verb; past tense freas, past participle froren), from Proto-Germanic *freusan "to freeze" (cognates: Old Norse frjosa, Old High German friosan, German frieren "to freeze," Gothic frius "frost"), from Proto-Germanic *freus-, equivalent to PIE root *preus- "to freeze," also "to burn" (cognates: Sanskrit prusva, Latin pruina "hoarfrost," Welsh rhew "frost," Sanskrit prustah "burnt," Albanian prus "burning coals," Latin pruna "a live coal").
Transitive sense first recorded 14c., figurative sense c.1400. Meaning "become rigid or motionless" attested by 1720. Sense of "fix at a certain level, make non-transactable" is 1922. Freeze frame is from 1960, originally "a briefly Frozen Shot after the Jingle to allow ample time for Change over at the end of a T.V. 'Commercial.' " ["ABC of Film & TV," 1960].
- freeze (n.)
- c.1400, from freeze (v.).
- freezer (n.)
- 1847 as the name of an item in ice-cream manufacture; from freeze (v.) + -er (1). As a household appliance, from 1945. Freezer burn attested from 1929.
- freight (n.)
- early 13c., fraght, from Middle Dutch or Middle Low German vracht, vrecht, meaning originally "cost of transport" and probably from a lost Old Frisian word, from Proto-Germanic *fra-aihtiz "absolute possession, property" (source also of Old High German freht "earnings"), from *fra-, intensive prefix, + *aik "to be master of, possess," from PIE *aik- (see owe). Meaning "transporting of goods or passengers for money" is from late 14c. Danish fragt, Swedish frakt apparently also are from Frisian. As a verb, from late 14c.
- freightage (n.)
- 1690s, a hybrid word, from freight + -age.
- freighter (n.)
- 1620s, "one who loads," agent noun from freight (v.). Meaning "a cargo vessel" is from 1839, American English.
- French (adj.)
- Old English frencisc "of the Franks," from Franca (see Frank). The noun is from Old English Frencisc. As the name of a language, from late 13c.
Euphemistic meaning "bad language" (pardon my French) is from 1895. Used in many combination-words, often dealing with food or sex. French dressing recorded by 1860; French toast is from 1630s. French letter "condom" (c.1856, perhaps on resemblance of sheepskin and parchment), French (v.) "perform oral sex on" (c.1917) and French kiss (1923) all probably stem from the Anglo-Saxon equation of Gallic culture and sexual sophistication, a sense first recorded 1749 in the phrase French novel.
To take French leave, "depart without telling the host," is 1771, from a social custom then prevalent. However, this is said to be called in France filer à l'anglaise, literally "to take English leave."
- French fries (n.)
- 1903, American English, earlier French fried potatoes (by 1883). French frieds (1944) never caught on. Simple short form fries attested by 1973. In the Upper Midwest of the U.S., sometimes called American fries (1950).
- Frenchify (v.)
- 1590s, from French + -ify. Usually contemptuous (Richardson in his introduction to "Pamela," beseeches the editor not to "Frenchify our English solidity into froth and whip-syllabub"). Related: Frenchified; Frenchifying.
- frenetic (adj.)
- late 14c., from Old French frenetike, from Latin phreneticus "delirious," alteration of Greek phrenitikos, from phrenitis "frenzy," literally "inflammation of the brain," from phren "mind, reason" (from PIE *gwhren- "to think") + -itis. The classical ph- was restored mid-16c. Related: Frenetically.
- frenzied (adj.)
- 1796; see frenzy.
- frenzy (n.)
- mid-14c., "delirium, insanity," from Old French frenesie, from Medieval Latin phrenesia, from phrenesis, back-formation from Latin phreneticus "delirious" (see frenetic). Meaning "excited state of mind" is from c.1400.
- Freon (n.)
- refrigerant chemical, 1932, proprietary name in U.S. for fluorocarbons used in refrigeration technology. "The name was apparently constructed from fre(eze) + -on used as an arbitrary suffix" [Flood].
- frequence (n.)
- 1530s, from French fréquence, from Latin frequentia (see frequent).
- frequency (n.)
- 1640s, "fact of occurring often," from Latin frequentia "a crowding, crowd," from frequentem (see frequent).
Earlier it had been used in a now-obsolete sense of "state of being crowded" (mid-16c.); sense in physics, "rate of recurrence," especially of a vibration, is from 1831. In radio electronics, frequency modulation (1922, abbreviated F.M.) as a system of broadcasting is distinguished from amplitude modulation (or A.M.).
- frequent (adj.)
- mid-15c., "ample, profuse," from Middle French frequent, or directly from Latin frequentem (nominative frequens) "crowded, repeated," of uncertain origin. Meaning "common, usual" is from 1530s; that of "happening at short intervals, often recurring" is from c.1600.
- frequent (v.)
- late 15c., from Middle French frequenter, from Latin frequentare "visit regularly," from frequentem (see frequent (adj.)). Related: Frequented; frequenting.
- frequentative (n.)
- "verb which expresses repetition of action," 1520s, from French fréquentatif, from Late Latin frequentativus "that which denotes the repetition of an act," from Latin frequentatus, past participle of frequentare "visit regularly," from frequentem (see frequent (adj.)).
- frequently (adv.)
- 1530s, from frequent (adj.) + -ly (2).
- fresco (n.)
- 1590s, in fresco, literally "in fresh," with a sense of "painted on fresh mortar or plaster," from Italian fresco "cool, fresh," from Proto-Germanic *friskaz (see fresh (adj.1)).
- fresh (adj.1)
- late 13c. "unsalted, pure, sweet, eager," metathesis of Old English fersc "unsalted," from West Germanic *friskaz (cognates: Old Frisian fersk, Middle Dutch versch, Dutch vers, Old High German frisc, German frisch "fresh").
Probably cognate with Old Church Slavonic presinu "fresh," Lithuanian preskas "sweet." The metathesis, and the expanded Middle English senses of "new, pure, eager" are probably by influence of (or in some instances, from) Old French fres (fem. fresche), from Proto-Germanic *frisko-, and thus related to the English word. The Germanic root also is the source of Italian and Spanish fresco. Related: Freshly; freshness.
- fresh (adj.2)
- "impudent, presumptuous," 1848, U.S. slang, probably from German frech "insolent, cheeky," from Old High German freh "covetous," related to Old English frec "greedy, bold" (see freak (n.)).
- freshen (v.)
- 1690s, from fresh (adj.1) + -en (1). Related: Freshened; freshening. To freshen a drink, "top it off" is from 1961. The earlier verb was simply fresh (mid-14c.).
- freshet (n.)
- 1590s, "stream flowing into the sea," from fresh (adj.1) in a now obsolete sense of "flood, stream of fresh water" (1530s). Old English had fersceta in the same sense. Meaning "flood caused by rain or melting snow" is from 1650s.