Definitions

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

  • n. A person who sells services to employers without a long-term commitment to any of them.
  • n. An uncommitted independent, as in politics or social life.
  • n. A medieval mercenary.
  • intransitive v. To work as a freelance: a journalist who freelances.
  • transitive v. To produce and sell as a freelance: freelanced the article to a magazine publisher.
  • adj. Of, relating to, or working as a freelance.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Someone who sells his services to employers without a long-term contract
  • n. A medieval mercenary
  • adj. Of, or relating to a freelance; without contract
  • v. To work as a freelance
  • v. To produce or sell services as a freelance

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. a person who acts independently or without authorization of an organization or of his superiors.
  • n. a person who pursues a profession independently, and not as the employee of an organization; -- used especially of writers or photographers who sell their work to organizations of which they are not employees.
  • adj. of or pertaining to a freelance{2}.

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

  • n. a writer or artist who sells services to different employers without a long-term contract with any of them
  • v. work independently and on temporary contracts rather than for a long-term employer
  • adj. serving for wages in a foreign army
  • adj. working for yourself

Etymologies

From free + lance. (Wiktionary)

Examples

Comments

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  • Over on free-lance the CD&C says: "A mercenary soldier during the middle ages, especially one of some rank, mounted and thoroughly armed and having followers or attendants. (Compare lance.) They were most conspicuous in Italy, where they were called condottieri. Also called free companion."

    May 25, 2012

  • Funny, that's how I've always thought of this word. Nice to know my presumption is backed by the OED. ;-)

    February 8, 2007

  • I never even considered that as the origin of this turn, this is awesome.

    February 8, 2007

  • I love the idea of a "free lance" as a mercenary knight, even though I don't think this word was used in the Middle Ages.

    Usage cited in OED: "I offered Richard the service of my Free Lances." Sir Walter Scott, _Ivanhoe_, xxxiv, 1820.

    February 8, 2007