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Licentious is an adjective describing people or conduct that does not adhere to rules or standards. Originally, the term referred to flouting the rules of the English language. However, today it is commonly used to describe people or acts without moral compass or restraint, especially regarding sexual behavior.
Licentious comes from the Latin term licentiousus, from licentia, which translates to license or freedom. It was common in the 1700s, but is more likely to be replaced with a word like promiscuous today.
A person who is licentious does not care for society’s conventions or worry about their reputation. They will have sex with whoever they want, without worries about being called derogative names like slut or whore. These names are often leveled at licentious people, but calling them libertines may be more accurate. Sometimes licentious people may not just ignore society’s rules, but also legal ones. For example, prostitutes may be called licentious for engaging in illegal sexual activity.
People may also engage in licentious behavior at certain points in their lives, like when they are young or recovering from a serious relationship breakdown. Society may also be accused of being licentious by people who believe pop culture and other elements promote poor moral choices.