Freedom vs. Liberty: What's in a name?

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Difference between Freedom and Liberty

For most people, “freedom” and "liberty" mean one and the same thing. While it is true that both terms stand for similar ideals, there are subtle differences between them that warrant a comparison. This comparison article therefore attempts to clue you in to some of the more telling differences between each.


Dictionary Definition

Freedom is defined variously as the quality or state of being free, or the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in making a choice or executing an action. The term may also refer to the state of liberation from slavery or the power of another person or organization or entity. Still other sources define freedom as the state of being released usually from a burdensome force. Freedom may also be defined as the state of being open or outspoken. As for liberty, the most common definition is that it is a state of being free to do as one pleases. Some sources would also define it as being unrestricted, physically or mentally. A more academic definition would encompass being free from arbitrary or tyrannical control. This is the definition most often used in the context of social, political, or economic situations. Finally, a more basic definition of liberty is that state of being able to make a choice.

Modern Definition

Even given the clearly delineated definitions of freedom and liberty, variances still exist and in fact continue to come up to this day. While most people are in agreement about the dictionary definitions of both terms, more modern usages define liberty as a "natural" right that is due to everyone on earth. It is therefore often seen as a God given right, and this outs it in contrast with freedom, which is more appropriately defined as the absence of outside pressure. Of course, some would argue that freedom must be earned, and that a conscious and sustained effort must be made to protect it. In contrast, liberty is simply assumed as a given right regardless of external circumstances.

As They Relate To Inalienable Rights

Freedom and liberty may actually be viewed as natural or inalienable rights that may not be deprived or given away from or by a person, at least without moral or ethical issues coming into consideration. The act of depriving anyone of such privileges is universally viewed as aggressive and against reason. The premise of this idea is that we are all granted free will by nature, and that no one can take that away from anyone else. This is particularly important when it comes to reading and interpreting the U.S. Constitution and ensuring that freedom and liberty are not stripped of her citizens by greedy and compromised politicians and business leaders.



  • Defined as the quality or state of being free
  • Also defined as being frank or outspoken
  • Sometimes defined as the absence of coercion or constraint
  • Can be said to protect and allow liberty
  • Considered a natural or inalienable right


  • Defined as the quality or state of being free
  • May be defined as the power to do as one pleases
  • Considered a natural or inalienable right


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