a. Official or legal permission to engage in a regulated activity: "He believed that the subcommittee gave him license to interrogate anyone about any possible links to communism" (Donald A. Ritchie). See Synonyms at permission.
b. A document, card, plate, or tag that is issued as proof of official or legal permission: a driver's license.
c. A contract allowing someone to use a proprietary product or service: has a site license for that software.
a. Freedom of action or permission to act: "Doctors labeled many of the organs of the immune system 'functionless' ... giving surgeons license to remove them with abandon" (Andrew Weil).
b. Poetic license.
a. Lack of due restraint; excessive freedom: "It is important to preserve freedom only for people who are willing to practice self-denial, for otherwise freedom degenerates into license and irresponsibility" (Milton Friedman).
b. Heedlessness for the precepts of proper behavior, especially with regard to sex: "noir stories of the consequences of sexual license" (Foster Hirsch).
c. An excuse or justification to do something wrong: people who see low-fat labels as a license to eat larger amounts.
tr.v. li·censed, li·cens·ing, li·cens·es
1. To give or yield permission to or for: "Deep down I wondered what licensed me to speak" (Jan Clausen).
2. To grant a license to or for; authorize. See Synonyms at authorize.
[Middle English licence, from Old French, from Medieval Latin licentia, authorization, from Latin, freedom, from licēns, licent-, present participle of licēre, to be permitted.]
licens·er, li′cen·sor (-sən-sôr) n.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.