RE: VOCAB/CULTURE: First use of the word "libertarian"

Joshua F. McMichael (
Fri, 25 Jul 97 10:45:22 -0500

>Michael M. Butler wrote:
> Can someone with an OED handy please give me its citation for the word
> "libertarian" as it first appeared in print? The OED frequently (always?)
> cites first use, author and year.

>From the Compact Oxford English Dictionary, 2d ed.


>...2. One who approves of or advocates liberty.

>1878 Seeley Stein III. [doesn't give anything else].

>1901 F.W. Maitland in English History Review July 419. ...In such
>matters Englishmen are individualists and libertarians. The picture of
>an editor defending his proof sheets ... before an official board of
>critics is not to our liking.

>There's other cites from 1906, 1966, 1969, and 1972.

>The archaism "libertine" may in certain contexts be synonomous with
>"libertarian." I think this word is much, much older -- Roman Empire or

This is from the ever-so-handy Dictionary of Word Origins (it's for =
the word 'liberal' - but liberal and libertarian are obviously =
etymologically related):

"liberal [14] The Latin word for 'free' was _liber_. It came from =
the same prehistoric source as Greek _ele=FAtheros_ 'free,' which may =
have denoted 'people, nation' (in which case the underlying =
etymological meaning of the word would be 'being a member of the =
(free) people,' as opposed to 'being a slave'). From _liber_ was =
derived _liberalis_ 'of freedom,' which passed into English via Old =
French _liberal_. Its earliest English meanings were 'generous' and =
'appropriate to the cultural pursuits of a 'free' 'man' (as in 'the =
liberal arts'). The connotations of 'tolerance' and 'lack of =
prejudice' did not emerge until the 18th centure, and the word's use =
as a designation of a particular political party in Britain dates =
from the early 19th century.
"Also from Latin _liber_ come English _libertine_ [14] and =
_liberty_ [14]."

The number in brackets indicates the century of the word's first use. =
[14] means the word was first used in the 14th century.