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[ri-lees] /rɪˈlis/
verb (used with object), released, releasing.
to free from confinement, bondage, obligation, pain, etc.; let go:
to release a prisoner; to release someone from a debt.
to free from anything that restrains, fastens, etc.:
to release a catapult.
to allow to be known, issued, done, or exhibited:
to release an article for publication.
Law. to give up, relinquish, or surrender (a right, claim, etc.).
a freeing or releasing from confinement, obligation, pain, emotional strain, etc.
liberation from anything that restrains or fastens.
some device or agency for effecting such liberation.
a grant of permission, as to publish, use, or sell something.
the releasing of something for publication, performance, use, exhibition, or sale.
the film, book, record, etc., that is released.
  1. the surrender of a right or the like to another.
  2. a document embodying such a surrender.
Law Obsolete. a remission, as of a debt, tax, or tribute.
  1. a control mechanism for starting or stopping a machine, especially by removing some restrictive apparatus.
  2. the opening of an exhaust port or valve at or near the working stroke of an engine so that the working fluid can be exhausted on the return stroke.
  3. the point in the stroke of an engine at which the exhaust port or valve is opened.
(in jazz or popular music) a bridge.
Origin of release
1250-1300; (v.) Middle English reles(s)en < Old French relesser, relaissier < Latin relaxāre to loosen (see relax); (noun) Middle English reles(e) < Old French reles, relais, derivative of relesser, relaisser
Related forms
releasability, noun
releasable, releasible, adjective
nonrelease, noun
unreleasable, adjective
unreleasible, adjective
Can be confused
re-lease, release.
1. loose, deliver. 2. loose, extricate, disengage. 3. announce, publish. 5. liberation, deliverance, emancipation.
1. bind. 2. fasten.
Synonym Study
1. Release, free, dismiss, discharge, liberate, emancipate may all mean to set at liberty, let loose, or let go. Release and free, when applied to persons, suggest a helpful action. Both may be used (not always interchangeably) of delivering a person from confinement or obligation: to free or release prisoners. Free (less often, release) is also used for delivering a person from pain, sorrow, etc.: to free from fear. Dismiss, meaning to send away, usually has the meaning of forcing to go unwillingly (to dismiss a servant), but may refer to giving permission to go: The teacher dismissed the class early. Discharge, meaning originally to relieve of a burden (to discharge a gun), has come to refer to that which is sent away, and is often a close synonym to dismiss; it is used in the meaning permit to go in connection with courts and the armed forces: The court discharged a man accused of robbery. Liberate and emancipate, more formal synonyms for release and free, also suggest action intended to be helpful. Liberate suggests particularly the release from unjust punishment, oppression, and the like, and often means to set free through forcible action or military campaign: They liberated the prisoners, the occupied territories, etc. Emancipate also suggests a release of some size and consequence, but one that is less overt, a more formal or legal freedom; and it sometimes connotes an inner liberation: Lincoln emancipated the slaves. John emancipated himself.


[ree-lees] /riˈlis/
verb (used with object), re-leased, re-leasing.
to lease again.
Law. to make over (land, property, etc.), as to another.
a contract for re-leasing land or property.
the land or property re-leased.
First recorded in 1820-30; re- + lease1
Can be confused
re-lease, release. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for release
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Until that ecstasy of release should come, he would do his duty,—yes, his duty.

    Malbone Thomas Wentworth Higginson
  • release can come only when the race at large is willing to cast the evil thing off.

  • Now I am advised by others to try on my release to forget that I have ever been in a prison at all.

    De Profundis Oscar Wilde
  • It was as if some mighty pent force were struggling for release.

    The Leopard Woman Stewart Edward White
  • There was no joy over her release in his tones, nor pity for her condition.

    The Underdog F. Hopkinson Smith
British Dictionary definitions for release


verb (transitive)
to free (a person, animal, etc) from captivity or imprisonment
to free (someone) from obligation or duty
to free (something) from (one's grip); let go or fall
to issue (a record, film, book, etc) for sale or circulation
to make (news or information) known or allow (news or information) to be made known: to release details of an agreement
(law) to relinquish (a right, claim, title, etc) in favour of someone else
(ethology) to evoke (a response) through the presentation of a stimulus that produces the response innately
the act of freeing or state of being freed, as from captivity, imprisonment, duty, pain, life, etc
the act of issuing for sale or publication
something issued for sale or public showing, esp a film or a record: a new release from Bob Dylan
a news item, document, etc, made available for publication, broadcasting, etc
(law) the surrender of a claim, right, title, etc, in favour of someone else
a control mechanism for starting or stopping an engine
  1. the opening of the exhaust valve of a steam engine near the end of the piston stroke
  2. the moment at which this valve opens
the electronic control regulating how long a note sounds after a synthesizer key has been released
the control mechanism for the shutter in a camera
Derived Forms
releaser, noun
Word Origin
C13: from Old French relesser, from Latin relaxāre to slacken; see relax
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for release

c.1300, "to withdraw, revoke (a decree, etc.), cancel, lift; remit," from Old French relaissier, relesser "to relinquish, quit, let go, leave behind, abandon, acquit," variant of relacher "release, relax," from Latin relaxare "loosen, stretch out" (see relax). Cf. Spanish relajar, Italian relassare.

Meaning "alleviate, ease" is mid-14c., as is sense of "free from (duty, etc.); exonerate." From late 14c. as "grant remission, forgive; set free from imprisonment, military service, etc." Also "give up, relinquish, surrender." In law, c.1400, "to grant a release of property." Of press reports, attested from 1904; of motion pictures, from 1912; of music recordings, from 1962. As a euphemism for "to dismiss, fire from a job" it is attested in American English since 1904. Related: Released; releasing.


early 14c., "abatement of distress; means of deliverance," from Old French relais, reles (12c.), a back-formation from relesser, relaissier (see release (v.)). In law, mid-14c., "transferring of property or a right to another;" late 14c. as "release from an obligation; remission of a duty, tribute, etc." Meaning "act and manner of releasing" (a bow, etc.) is from 1871. Sense of "action of publication" is from 1907.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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