Definition of freedom noun from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary



    BrE BrE//ˈfriːdəm//
    ; NAmE NAmE//ˈfriːdəm//
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  1. 1  [uncountable, countable] freedom (of something) the right to do or say what you want without anyone stopping you freedom of speech/thought/expression/worship a threat to press/academic, etc. freedom rights and freedoms guaranteed by the constitution Culturefreedom and rightsMany of the rights of US citizens are laid down in the Constitution and the first ten amendments to it, which are together called the Bill of Rights. The Constitution was written in the late 1700s to explain not only how the US government would work , but also what limits there would be on its power. At that time, people were beginning to believe that the rights of individuals were important, and that the government was the main threat to those rights. Limiting the federal governments' power was also seen as necessary to protect the rights of states within the United States.Britain does not have a written constitution or legal document describing the rights of individuals but for British people freedom to live without interference from government is important. Proposals to introduce identity cards for everyone are always resisted and people often talk about the nanny state when they feel the government is interfering in their lives.In Britain and the US the most basic rights include freedom of expression (= freedom to say or write what you think), freedom of choice (= freedom to make decisions about your own life) and freedom of worship (= freedom to practise any religion).Freedom of expression does not imply complete freedom for people to say what they like. In the US the First Amendment protects freedom of speech and of the press but the courts, especially the Supreme Court, decide how it should be applied. For instance, a newspaper is not allowed to print something bad about a person that is known not to be true: this is libel. The courts do not practise prior restraint, i.e. they cannot stop a newspaper from printing something, but they can punish the newspaper afterwards. However, in a few cases, e.g. when national security is involved, the courts may order newspapers not to print a report.The right to free speech in the US has not always been respected. In the 1950s, when McCarthyism was at its height, people who were suspected of being Communists were called before Congress to answer questions. People who used their right to free speech and said they believed in Communism, or who took the Fifth, i.e. used their right under the Fifth Amendment not to give evidence against themselves, often lost their jobs or went to prison.In Britain until 1968 all plays had to be approved by the Lord Chamberlain before they could be performed in theatres. Censorship of the press ended in the 1960s. Newspapers are expected to behave responsibly and members of the public have the right to complain about what is published in the press to the Press Complaints Commission. Recently there have been complaints about newspapers secretly listening to and reading people's phone messages. This practice is known as phone hacking and in 2011 a commission was set up under a senior judge, Lord Justice Leveson, to investigate this and other aspects of the British press. The commission proposed that an independent organization should replace the Press Complaints Commission.The right of equal opportunity (= the right to be treated the same as others, regardless of race, sex, etc.) is enforced in Britain through the Race Relations Acts and the Sex Discrimination Act. In the US the civil rights movement of the 1960s influenced the making of new laws to protect the rights of minority groups, especially African Americans. In 1972 an Equal Rights Amendment, which would have given women the same rights and opportunities as men, failed to get the support of enough states to be passed. Later, however, several laws were passed making it illegal to discriminate against women. In Britain the Human Rights Act was passed in 1998, which stated that public organizations had to follow the principles listed in the European Convention on Human Rights.People in Britain and the US have a much valued right to privacy. The US and British Freedom of Information Acts and the British Data Protection Act allow a person access to information held about them and the opportunity to correct it if it is wrong.In the US several amendments to the Constitution deal specifically with the rights of people suspected or accused of a crime. In Britain recent changes to habeas corpus (= the right of a person detained by the police to be released within 24 hours if not charged) and the right to remain silent when arrested, which were introduced as part of the laws against terrorism, met with strong opposition from many people. It is now possible for the police to keep a person for 28 days before they are charged. In both Britain and the US the police are heavily criticized if people's rights are infringed.In the US an individual's right to own weapons continues to cause disagreement. When this right was included in the Second Amendment, America had just finished fighting for independence. Since the US did not want to keep a permanent army, its defence in the case of future attacks depended on ordinary people having weapons. Many people believe that, since the US now has a professional army, individuals do not need guns, and that the interpretation of the amendment should take account of the modern situation. But others want to keep the right to have weapons and resist any changes to the law. This view is put forward especially by the National Rifle Association.
  2. 2  [uncountable, singular] the state of being able to do what you want, without anything stopping you freedom (of something) freedom of action/choice Thanks to the automobile, Americans soon had a freedom of movement previously unknown. Enjoy the freedom of the outdoors (= where you can do what you want). freedom (to do something) complete freedom to do as you wish These proposals would give health authorities greater freedom in deciding how to spend their money.
  3. 3  [uncountable] the state of not being a prisoner or slave He finally won his freedom after twenty years in jail. Wordfinderallow, emancipation, freedom, imprisonment, independence, liberty, oppress, restriction, rule, slave
  4. 4  [uncountable] freedom from something the state of not being affected by the thing mentioned freedom from fear/pain/hunger, etc.
  5. 5[singular] the freedom of something permission to use something without restriction I was given the freedom of the whole house.
  6. Word OriginOld English frēodōm (see free, -dom).Extra examples As a society we value freedom and privacy. Branch managers have considerable freedom in running their offices. He was denied freedom of movement for a month. His inability to resist temptation would eventually cost him his freedom. I don’t want to curtail my daughter’s freedom. I was enjoying the freedom of not having to go to work. Individual freedom should be balanced against the rights of the community. Living without war is a fundamental freedom. Our freedom was threatened by press censorship. Publishers here enjoy comparative freedom to publish what they want. Teachers can exercise a measure of freedom in their choice of materials. The Official Secrets Act was amended to allow greater freedom of information. The constitution guarantees freedom of the press. The new syllabus allows students greater freedom of choice. The party claims it can bring freedom and democracy to the country. The women have won many new freedoms for themselves. This newspaper defends freedom of speech. When she lost her job, she at first relished her new-found freedom. Without academic freedom, we cannot do any research. freedom from fear and pain Enjoy the freedom of the outdoors. One of the most basic freedoms is the right to peace. The constitution contains guarantees of democratic rights and freedoms. There has been much talk about encouraging artistic freedom. This case is about protecting our freedom of speech. freedom of speech/​thought/​expression/​worship/​choice/​action/​movementIdioms
    the freedom of the city
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    (in Britain) an honour that is given to somebody by a city as a reward for work they have done
    freedom of/room for manoeuvre
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    the chance to change the way that something happens and influence decisions that are made Small farmers have limited room for manoeuvre.
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: freedom