Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n.pl. Academic disciplines, such as languages, literature, history, philosophy, mathematics, and science, that provide information of general cultural concern: "The term 'liberal arts' connotes a certain elevation above utilitarian concerns. Yet liberal education is intensely useful” ( George F. Will).
  • n.pl. The disciplines comprising the trivium and quadrivium.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. those areas of learning that require and cultivate general intellectual ability rather than technical skills; the humanities
  • n. the trivium and the quadrivium

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. studies intended to provide general knowledge and intellectual skills (rather than occupational or professional skills)

Etymologies

Middle English, translation of Medieval Latin artēs liberālēs, the trivium and quadrivium : Latin artēs, pl. of Latin ars, art-, subject of study + līberālēs, pl. of līberālis, proper to free persons.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)

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