c. 1300, "household allowance of any kind (food, provisions, clothing) to retainers or servants," from Anglo-French livere (late 13c.; Old French liveree, Modern French livrée), "allowance, ration, pay," originally "(clothes) delivered by a master to his retinue," from fem. past participle of livrer "to dispense, deliver, hand over," from Latin liberare "to set free" (see liberate).
The sense later was reduced to "servants' rations" and "provender for horses" (mid-15c.). The former led to the meaning "distinctive clothing given to servants" (early 14c.); the latter now is obsolete, unless livery stable (1705) survives. Related: Liveried.
updated on August 06, 2016