liberal arts

See more synonyms for liberal arts on Thesaurus.com
plural noun
  1. the academic course of instruction at a college intended to provide general knowledge and comprising the arts, humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences, as opposed to professional or technical subjects.
  2. (during the Middle Ages) studies comprising the quadrivium and trivium, including arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, music, grammar, rhetoric, and logic.

Origin of liberal arts

1745–55; translation of Latin artēs līberālēs works befitting a free man
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for liberal arts

mathematics, history, language, literature, philosophy, science

Examples from the Web for liberal arts

Contemporary Examples of liberal arts

  • In the single digits were liberal-arts majors (8 percent), visual and performing arts (5 percent) and engineering (7 percent).

    The Daily Beast logo
    America’s Clouded College Thinking

    Lauren Streib

    July 23, 2013

  • The premise of a liberal-arts education is the idea that school is there for something more than earning power.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Did My Education Cost Too Much?

    Jessica Feldman

    September 12, 2012

  • He was a liberal-arts student but had this idea for a project over at MIT involving solid rocket fuel.

    The Daily Beast logo
    The Harvard Psychedelic Club

    Don Lattin

    January 9, 2010


British Dictionary definitions for liberal arts

liberal arts

pl n
  1. the fine arts, humanities, sociology, languages, and literatureOften shortened to: arts
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

Word Origin and History for liberal arts

late 14c., translating Latin artes liberales; the seven attainments directed to intellectual enlargement, not immediate practical purpose, and thus deemed worthy of a free man (liberal in this sense is opposed to servile or mechanical). They were divided into the trivium -- grammar, logic, rhetoric (cf. trivial) -- and the quadrivium -- arithmetic, geometry, music, astronomy.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

liberal arts in Culture

liberal arts

The areas of learning that cultivate general intellectual ability rather than technical or professional skills. The term liberal arts is often used as a synonym for humanities, although the liberal arts also include the sciences. The word liberal comes from the Latin liberalis, meaning suitable for a free man, as opposed to a slave.

liberal arts

The areas of learning that cultivate general intellectual ability rather than technical or professional skills. Liberal arts is often used as a synonym for humanities, because literature, languages, history, and philosophy are often considered the primary subjects of the liberal arts. The term liberal arts originally meant arts suitable for free people (libri in Latin) but not for slaves.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.