Word Geek – Freelance

This month Word Geek has decided to investigate the word ‘freelance’. Although it sounds like a modern business term, its origins were actually from the battlefield! It was first used in the English language in the early 1800s to describe a medieval mercenary whose favour could be swayed to fight for another side, depending on who would pay the largest wage. The word came from the literal fighting tool, their lance, being free of allegiance and available for hire.

The word then developed into a broader term used to describe a politician without a strong connection to a specific political party. In modern terms they would now be called ‘an independent’.

The development of the word to the noun ‘freelancer’, which we now use to describe people who work independently from companies without any fixed contract, is a much more recent variation of the original word. Today the tools of a freelancer are more likely to be a computer, a mobile phone and some hot coffee!

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