Printable Version
Pronunciation: liv-êr-ree Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, Adjective

Meaning: 1. The fancy uniform required of some servants, officials, or jobs. 2. The commercial insignias designed to be recognized as emblems of particular companies on their vehicles. 3. The stabling of horses for the owner, including feed and other care, for a fee. 4. (Adjective, US) Related to a car or a horse and carriage for public hire, as 'a livery cab'.

Notes: No, this word doesn't mean "liver-colored"; that is liverish. This word, unlike uniform, refers to a fancy uniform that identifies a family, company, or job. Today doormen and theater ushers wear liveries; they are said to be liveried for their wearing of liveries.

In Play: Any distinctive dress required by a profession or event can be a livery: "Yes, I went to the graduation exercises just to see R. Cain in his academic livery." A job may require a livery: "Portia Radclyffe lives in an apartment with a doorman with the fanciest livery of any doorman in the city."

Word History: Today's Good Word in Middle English was liveri, borrowed from Old French livree "delivered", the feminine past participle of livrer "to deliver". The ultimate origin of this word was Classical Latin from Latin liberare "to free", from liber "free". However, over the centuries it came to refer to the dispensing (liberation?) of food, provisions, or clothing to servants and horses, hence sense 3. Delivery shares the same origin and same historical semantic track. English borrowed quite a few words from Romance languages based on liberare: liberate, liberal, libertine, the country of Liberia, and Liberace, the wildly liberated pianist of old. Believe it or not, liber apparently comes from the same root, leudh-, as German Leute "people" and Russian lyudi "people". (We must thank William Hupy for delivering today's most liberating Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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