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While I believe there may have not been a term of "Free Spirit" in Latin, if we were to translate it and retain its English meaning using Latin words, what would it be?

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I would translate that as animus liber. I think liber (free, unrestrained, not subordinate to anything) and animus (soul, mind, will, consciousness, intellect, rationality) match what "free spirit" means. To get a better feeling of these two Latin words, I suggest taking a look at any online Latin dictionary.

Calling a person an animus in Latin seems analogous to calling a person a "spirit" in English. It is the same kind of metonymy, and works well in my opinion. This is not an attested classical idiom as far as I know, but should be easily understandable to the Romans in a suitable context.

  • "Free spirit" in English is usually applied to people directly, as in "he is a free spirit". Is it idiomatic to use animus like that? – Draconis Jun 19 '18 at 20:37
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    @Draconis Then I parsed the English correctly. In an expression like this I see no problem in calling a person an animus by metonymy, akin to calling a person a spirit in English. I don't find "spirit" idiomatic for a person directly (but I may be wrong!), but it works well in some phrases. – Joonas Ilmavirta Jun 19 '18 at 20:41
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The English “free spirit” is a bahuvrihi compound meaning “whose spirit is free; having a free spirit”, of the same structure as Latin magnanimus “whose spirit is great”. The German equivalent of “free spirit” is “Freigeist” – patently a compound – which Grimm & Grimm & alii, “Deutsches Wörterbuch”, gloss as “liberioris judicii in rebus divinis”. I think “liberi judicii” works quite well for “free spirit”.

https://www.dwds.de/wb/dwb/freigeist

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Animus is perfectly appropriate in this context but I think that, rather than liber, either effrenatus or effusus would better express the idea of a spirit that is 'free' here.

The two adjectives are very close in meaning. Effrenatus, 'unbridled' means 'lacking (external) control', while effusus indicates that the spirit enjoys an extraordinary freedom of expression.

  • I tend to see effrenatus (perhaps under the influence of Catiline I) as unambiguously pejorative, whereas "free spirit" in English is generally pretty positive. Effusus might capture that better, though. – brianpck Jun 21 '18 at 13:53
  • @brianpck How do you define 'free spirit' in English, which is what we're after here? I'd say , with a highly individual lifestyle, attitude, or imagination ; if you like, a nonconformist, maybe a hippie, maverick, or radical. Someone who doesn't feel bound or restrained by convention. You could read either as pejorative according to context, or your point of view, but not at all exclusively so. It seems to me that effrenata mens might in fact even improve on effrenatus animus, if the subject was an enraptured flower-child or hippie. Would that be pejorative? – Tom Cotton Jun 21 '18 at 16:27

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