The word "free" is often considered to be unclear, and ambiguous. As such, the word is often used in conjunction with the word "libre", as seen in this answer.

In the spirit of clarity, the word "libre" is often used to clear the alternate meaning of the word "free," so that the implication will be that of free as in speech, not free as in food. Free Software is often referred to as Free/Libre software, and the common acronym FLOSS, stands for Free/Libre and Open Sorce Software.

Therefore, if the word free is consistently added as a pair to the word "free", why doesn't the Free Software Foundation instead simply use the word libre? I can understand if there are considerable obstacles to make a complete, efficient transition to the clearer word libre, but I'm curious to see if the FSF has a stance on this.

Just to be clear, I am not asking why the FSF doesn't make the switch, but rather what their stance and efforts are, or have been.

Update: To counteract the fact that the FSF uses "free" because of it's implied meaning, The FSFLA (or Free Software Foundation Latin America) has named their linux kernel to be this: linux-libre.

More on the wikipedia article: Linux-libre

  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because the FSF is (AFAIK) not present here. Nobody here is empowered to speak for the FSF, so as asked, it is unanswerable. If changed to be answerable: Why do you think the FSF continue to use the word "free" if it's ambiguous? it becomes opinon-based, wich is also off-topic? Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 23:23
  • @FreeRadical Just because "someone" (note the quotations) isn't here doesn't mean that a question doesn't fit within the scope of a site. It's an inappropriate close reason. If our intention is to attract experts, we need to ask high quality questions that will compel experts, compel academics to answer in return with high quality answers. This is how we build a site.
    – Zizouz212
    Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 23:31
  • It really doesn't look like you've read my question either... I am not asking why the FSF doesn't make the switch and you say Somehow, I don't think the "Libre Software Association" has the same pizzazz.. Besides, rms seems to have a penchant for the word "free". In the 30 years that has gone by since the FSF was created, he has gone to great lengths to persuade people that it is "free as in freedom". It's too late to stop now.
    – Zizouz212
    Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 23:34
  • 2
    @FreeRadical I don't see the problem, the question is if the FSF has a stance on this, which seems perfectly answerable.
    – overactor
    Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 2:18
  • 1
    I suspect that because the FSF strongly feels about the freedoms of software users they want to emphasise the freedoms their licenses offer the user with the word free, even at the cost of abiguity. I have nothing to back that up with.
    – Martijn
    Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 9:42

1 Answer 1


"Libre" is a French word (not English). So, people outside France (especially from various countries in the world) may not recognize it at all.

Quoted from here:

Unfortunately, all the alternatives in English have problems of their own. We've looked at many that people have suggested, but none is so clearly “right” that switching to it would be a good idea. (For instance, in some contexts the French and Spanish word “libre” works well, but people in India do not recognize it at all.)

FSF recommends considering free as in freedom (think: "free speech") on its definition page. So, (FSF expect/believes that) anyone understands exactly what "free software" is once they read this.

Quoted from Definition page:

We prefer the term “free software” because, once you have heard that it refers to freedom rather than price, it calls to mind freedom.

FSF also provides translation for "free software" in other languages:

Quoted from categories:

Many languages have two separate words for “free” as in freedom and “free” as in zero price. For example, French has “libre” and “gratuit”. Not so English; there is a word “gratis” that refers unambiguously to price, but no common adjective that refers unambiguously to freedom. So if you are speaking another language, we suggest you translate “free” into your language to make it clearer. See our list of translations of the term “free software” into various other languages.

Finally quoting from header @ FSF>about>What is free software?:

Free software is software that gives you the user the freedom to share, study and modify it. We call this free software because the user is free.

Note: I am unable to find absolute/exact information/statement by FSF. So, as you want to know why FSF continues the word "free" and why not simply using word "libre" instead, I suggest to contact/discuss/ask to FSF rather than just asking here.

Opinion: I think FSF uses "Libre" software for explanatory only. As goal is Freedom, recommends free software.

Also free relevant to freedom and libre to liberty, freedom vs Liberty may help to understand/different/focus.

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    Libre means free in french and spanish, in italian it is libero, in latin liber. Many languages (including english) borrowed the word for constructions like liberalism. English is not the gold-standard, so it isn't said that free is worldwide better understood than libre (as spanish is pretty common I would argue that this is at least as well known). But if you go after what the majority of the world understands, you should choose ziyou.
    – Mnementh
    Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 8:12
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    @Mnementh I suggest to contact/ask to FSF about this. (How can we answer absolutely?!)
    – Pandya
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 17:02
  • Note that FSF isn't the only organization that uses the word "free" to imply freedom rather than price. There are several universities that use that word too, such as the British Free University.
    – dmbaturin
    Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 16:56
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    English is for better or worse the local language where the FSF are based, the dominant language in the world software industry/community and the dominant language of international cooperation more generally. Mandarin has an impressive number of speakers, but very much concentrated on china. Commented Apr 1, 2023 at 22:37

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