liberty


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Give me liberty, or give me death!

A set phrase indicating stark and unyielding refusal to submit to authoritarian measures or domination. The phrase is attributed to American politician Patrick Henry (1736–1799) from a speech he made to the Virginia Convention in 1775, calling for Virginian troops to assist in the Revolutionary War. Any number of alternative nouns can be used in place of "liberty" as a means of humorously or hyperbolically highlighting one's extreme reluctance to part with it. The government thinks it can censor our media, monitor our communications, and tax us to starvation without us putting up a fight. Well, I say to them, give me liberty, or give me death! Give me bacon or give me death!
See also: give

take the liberty to do (something)

To do something without first seeking out or asking for someone's permission. I took the liberty to print out some financial reports ahead of today's meeting. I hope you don't mind, but I took the liberty to tell your husband you'd be late for dinner.
See also: liberty, take

at liberty

free; unrestrained. The criminal was set at liberty by the judge. You're at liberty to go anywhere you wish. I'm not at liberty to discuss the matter.
See also: liberty

take liberties with someone or something

 and make free with someone or something
to freely use or abuse someone or something. You are overly familiar with me, Mr. Jones. One might think you were taking liberties with me. I don't like it when you make free with my lawn mower. You should at least ask when you want to borrow it.
See also: liberty, take

take the liberty of doing something

to do something for someone voluntarily; to do something slightly personal for someone that would be more appropriate if one knew the person better. (Often used as an overly polite exaggeration in a request.) Do you mind if I take the liberty of flicking a bit of lint off your collar? May I take the liberty of removing your coat? I took the liberty of ordering an entree for you. I hope you don't mind.
See also: liberty, of, take

take liberties (with somebody)

to be friendly with another person for your own benefit The head of our department believed that everyone there would take liberties with her if she let them.
See also: liberty, take

take liberties with something

to change something to suit your needs, esp. when writing a story or book The play takes liberties with history, but it brings to life the people from so long ago.
See also: liberty, take

at liberty

able or allowed to do something I'm not at liberty to discuss this with you.
Usage notes: often used in a negative statement, as in the example
See also: liberty

take the liberty of doing something

to do something without first getting someone's approval I've taken the liberty of reserving a seat for you on tomorrow morning's flight to New York.
See also: liberty, of, take

take liberties

 
1. to change something, especially a piece of writing, in a way that people disagree with (usually + with ) Whoever wrote the screenplay for the film took great liberties with the original text of the novel.
2. (old-fashioned) to be too friendly to someone in a way that shows a lack of respect, especially in a sexual way (often + with ) Don't let him take liberties with you.
See also: liberty, take

take the liberty of doing something

  (formal)
to do something that will have an effect on someone else without asking their permission (usually in past tenses) I took the liberty of reserving us two seats at the conference. I hope that's all right by you.
See also: liberty, of, take

at liberty

Free, not obligated; also, not occupied. For example, I am not at liberty to tell you the whole story, or " I ... washed when there was a basin at liberty" (Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre, 1847). This idiom is often used in a negative context, as in the first example. [First half of 1800s]
See also: liberty

take liberties

1. Behave improperly or disrespectfully; also, make unwanted sexual advances. For example, He doesn't allow staff members to take liberties, such as calling clients by their first names , or She decided that if Jack tried to take liberties with her she would go straight home. This idiom uses liberties in the sense of "an overstepping of propriety," and thus differs markedly from take the liberty of. [c. 1700]
2. Make a statement or take an action not warranted by the facts or circumstances, as in Their book takes liberties with the historical record.
See also: liberty, take

take the liberty of

Act on one's own authority without permission from another, as in I took the liberty of forwarding the mail to his summer address. It is also put as take the liberty to, as in He took the liberty to address the Governor by her first name. This rather formal locution was first recorded in 1625 and does not imply the opprobrium of the similar-sounding take liberties.
See also: liberty, of, take

at liberty

1. Not in confinement or under constraint; free.
2. Entitled or permitted to do something: We found ourselves at liberty to explore the grounds.
See also: liberty

take the liberty

To dare (to do something) on one's own initiative or without asking permission: I took the liberty to send you these pictures of my vacation.
See also: liberty, take
References in classic literature ?
The reader may please to observe, that, in the last article of the recovery of my liberty, the emperor stipulates to allow me a quantity of meat and drink sufficient for the support of 1724 Lilliputians.
As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed.
But to renounce that unendurable worldly yoke which men believe to be liberty is not perhaps so painful as you think.
My weak point was touched; and I forgot, for a moment, that the contemplation of these sublime subjects was not worth the loss of liberty.
Caligula or Nero, those treasure-seekers, those desirers of the impossible, would have accorded to the poor wretch, in exchange for his wealth, the liberty he so earnestly prayed for.
They are a great popular movement, and every great popular movement, whatever may be its cause and object, always sets free the spirit of liberty from its final precipitate.
There exists at that epoch, for thought written in stone, a privilege exactly comparable to our present liberty of the press.
His liberty and perhaps his life depended upon his success.
Seeing that they stood without advancing, and realizing that, handicapped as he was by the weight of the she, he could put up but a poor battle, Taglat elected to risk a sudden break for liberty.
He was not sufficiently guilty to suffer death, but he was too much so to be set at liberty.
The last extreme of popular liberty is when the slave bought with money, whether male or female, is just as free as his or her purchaser; nor must I forget to tell of the liberty and equality of the two sexes in relation to each other.
That is what I am doing, I replied; and I must add that no one who does not know would believe, how much greater is the liberty which the animals who are under the dominion of man have in a democracy than in any other State: for truly, the she-dogs, as the proverb says, are as good as their she-mistresses, and the horses and asses have a way of marching along with all the rights and dignities of freemen; and they will run at anybody who comes in their way if he does not leave the road clear for them: and all things are just ready to burst with liberty.
The foolish animal no sooner perceived itself at liberty, than forgetting all the favours it had received from Sophia, it flew directly from her, and perched on a bough at some distance.
I had Miss Sophia's bird in my hand, and thinking the poor creature languished for liberty, I own I could not forbear giving it what it desired; for I always thought there was something very cruel in confining anything.
However, when the ship came thither and cast anchor, we were allowed more liberty, and particularly were permitted to come up on the deck, but not up on the quarter-deck, that being kept particularly for the captain and for passengers.