One of the most contentious words in the OpenSource/FreeSoftware movements. The problem is that in English there are many different meanings of the word "free". The two meanings of the word 'free' that are typically used in conjunction with software are:

As in beer
It doesn't cost anything.
As in speech
It's not confined, it has freedom, etc...

FreeSoftware is about "Free as in Free Speech", even though no cost is usually associated with it. Thus the confusion persists. People tend to talk about "Free as in freedom" with a capital F and "free as in beer" with a lowercase "f". YMMV.

Note that Maori is one of those languages that does have different words for "no cost" and "not restricted".

The recognised Māori word for no-cost freeware is "pūmanawa utukore" We should probably start referring to Copyleft-Free software as "pūmanawa ātea" (And for Open Source, I think "Pūmanawa puna tumatanui" is a fairly good translation)

To ensure maximum confusion there's also Vores Øl (Our Beer) which is Free beer. Free Speech is a somewhat American concept to begin with, and it could also be argued that Free Speech has become considerably less free since the events of September 11th and/or the passing of the USA-PATRIOT act. For these (and other) reasons BruceKingsbury advocates the expression "Free as in Free Market" to get the point across. People usually understand that the Free Market thing is something to do with having fewer trade restrictions, equal access and fair competion between sellers, not a market where you can obtain goods at no cost!

Perhaps it would be better if people used the latin words libre (as in liberty) and gratis (as in no cost)...

A good discussion about why things should be Free posted on