Old English freodom "power of self-determination, state of free will; emancipation from slavery, deliverance;" see free (adj.) + -dom. Meaning "exemption from arbitrary or despotic control, civil liberty" is from late 14c. Meaning "possession of particular privileges" is from 1570s. Similar formation in Old Frisian fridom, Dutch vrijdom, Middle Low German vridom.
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]
[F]reedom is only truly freedom when it appears against the background of an artificial limitation. [T.S. Eliot, "Reflections on 'Vers Libre'"]
Freedom fighter attested by 1903 (originally with reference to Cuba). Freedom-loving (adj.) is from 1841. Freedom-rider is recorded from 1961 in reference to civil rights activists in U.S. trying to integrate bus lines.