The Joy of Language Learning

I’ll Need to See Your Licence, Sir.

Should people be given complete freedom? Should everyone be allowed to do everything they want to do without restraints? Certainly, this should not be the case. Humans, being social creatures, must abide by norms and standards of the society they live in. This brings into the picture a few necessary restrictions that help the society as a whole function without hinderance. Thus we classified certain actions as legal, i.e., allowed and others as illegal, i.e., disallowed. Thus, as is the case with anything new, we formulated a handful of words that referred to permissions and restrictions.

The Latin term licere means to be allowed or lawful. Two of its common descendants are licence and license.* The former is a noun which means a permit from an authority (as in a driving licence). The latter, on the other hand, is a verb which means to grant a permit or licence. For instance, if a company expects that their drug will soon be licensed for use in a country, it means that they are expecting a permit being granted to them. A cousin of licence, licentious has evolved to convey quite a different meaning as it refers to being promiscuous or sexually immoral and disrespectful towards social norms.

Image Credit: Dom J/ Pexels

Licere also led to the Old French term, leisire, which now exists in English as leisure meaning free time (as in “You can do it in your own leisure” means the same as “You can do it in your free time.”)

What do you like to do in your leisure time?
Image Credit: Philip Barrington/ Pixabay

The past participle form of licere is lictus from which we derived the word licit meaning lawful. When prefixed with ill-, we obtain the term illicit which means to be unlawful. Thus if we say that some company’s business is a mix of licit and illicit trades, it means that both lawful and unlawful means are being employed by the company.

Indulging oneself.
Image Credit: Andrew Coop/ Unsplash

The Latin word indulgere means to be yielding or giving in easily. Its present counterpart, indulge hasn’t changed much in meaning. If a father is indulging his child, he is pampering the child and giving in to his whims and wishes and if someone indulges one’s cravings, they are giving into their cravings. Extending from it, indulgent conveys a sense of tolerance and permissiveness.

That will be it about the words. A quick look at the table below will help you when you encounter the quiz and crossword ahead.

*British English speakers use ‘Licence’ whereas American English speakers use ‘License’ (used as a noun and not a verb) to mean the same thing.

Table Summary:

IndulgeAllow yourself or someone to enjoy something desired
Indulge-entBeing over-ready to be generous or lenient with someone; Permissive or tolerant
LicensePermit to do something
LicentiousSomething which is sexually immoral or disrespectful
LeisureTime when someone is not working; free time

Welcome to your Licit Quiz

"Licence" in the given headline means:


What does 'licentious' mean in the given headline?


What does 'leisure' mean in the given headline?


"Licit" in the given excerpt means:


What does 'illicit' mean in the given headline?


"Indulge" in the given headline means:


What does 'indulgent' mean in the given headline?


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