Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.
June 16th, 2015
Episode 228 of 718 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 16, 2015 is: libertine \LIB-er-teen\ noun 1 : a freethinker especially in religious matters 2 : a person who is unrestrained by convention or morality; specifically : one leading a dissolute life Examples: Don Juan is known as a famous libertine who seduced countless women. "In the movie, she's portrayed as a libertine who had affairs with both men and women, while she was single and while she was married, and she drank copious quantities of Prohibition Era gin." Adam Buckman, Television News Daily, May 12, 2015 Did you know? "I only ask to be free" says Mr. Skimpole in Charles Dickens's Bleak House, and his words would undoubtedly have appealed to the world's first libertines. The word libertine was first used in early writings of Roman antiquity to identify a slave who had been set free (the Roman term for an emancipated slave was the Latin libertus). By the late 1500s, the "freedman" sense of libertine had been extended to refer to freethinkers (both religious and secular); Shakespeare used it to refer to anyone who follows his or her own inclinations. By 1600, though, the term had come to imply that an individual was a little too unrestrained, especially in moral situations. And yes, the Latin root of libertine is liber, the ultimate source of our word liberty.