What Does 'Libre' Mean?

Common Adjective Related to 'Free' as in 'Freedom'

Using the Spanish word libre
This egg package shows the use of the words "libre" and "libertad.". Photo by Diogenes; licensed via Creative Commons.

Libre is the most common Spanish adjective for "free" — but it isn't used to refer to something that is available without charge or cost. For that, the word to use almost always is gratis.

Instead, libre, related to words such as "liberate" and "liberty," usually refers to being free in the sense of being free of restraints or sometimes in the sense of being available.

Some examples of its use:

  • En 2016, Argentina celebra 200 años del surgimiento de una nación libre y independiente. (In 2016, Argentina celebrates 200 years of the springing forth of a free and independent nation.)
  • Soy hombre libre. No dependo de nadie. (I'm a free man. I don't depend on anyone.)
  • Seré libre cuando mis padres no estén aquí. (I will be free when my parents aren't here.)
  • ¿Dónde encontrar cosméticos libres de crueldad animal? (Where can I find cosmetics made without animal cruelty?)
  • Dejaron libres a los cinco presos. (They released the five prisoners.)
  • No había asiento libre a la vista. (There was not an available seat in sight.)
  • Hay una diferencia de actitud entre la traducción libre y la traducción literal. (There is a difference in attitude between a free translation and a literal translation.)
  • Todos tienen derecho a respirar aire libre de humo. (Everyone has the right to breathe smoke-free air.)

Phrases Using 'Libre'

An abundance of phrases and idioms use libre. Among the most common:

  • absolución libre — verdict of not guilty
  • aire libre, al aire libre — outdoors
  • amor libre — free love
  • caída libre — free fall
  • dar vía libre — to give permission
  • día libre — day off work or other obligations
  • libre de impuestos — tax-free
  • lucha libre — wrestling
  • mercado libre — free market (an economics term)
  • paso libre — something free of obstacles
  • prensa libre — free press
  • puerto libre — free port
  • software libre — open-source software
  • tiempo libre — free time
  • tiro libre — free throw (as in basketball), free kick (as in soccer)
  • trabajar por libre — to do freelance work

Words Related to 'Libre'

The two verbs most closely related to libre are liberar and librar. Liberar is the more common and usually means to liberate, to release or to let a person or a animal go free. Librar has a variety of seemingly unrelated meanings including saving someone from danger, drawing a check (monetary instrument), fighting and revealing. There are also several related compound nouns including librecambio (free trade), librecambista (advocate of free trade) and librepensador (freethinker).

Other related words include librado (someone who draws or writes a check), liberal (liberal) and libertad (liberty).


Libre comes from the Latin liber, which had a similar meaning to libre. From liber came the Latin verb liberare, meaning to set free. Its past participle, liberatus, became the source of English words such as "liberate" and "liberation."


Sample sentences have been adapted from TiempoSur, WHO.int, Veoverde.com El Sur de Acapulco, Mario López Martín and Wattpad.com.